Friday, September 12, 2014

Philosophers reject scientific method

On a recent podcast, scientist-turned-philosopher Massimo Pigliucci says:
It has become clear: Among philosophers of science, it is now a given that there is no such thing as the scientific method. That science is a family resemblance concept, that it is a vague fuzzy concept. [at 20:50]
This is the same guy who complains:
It seems like my friend Neil deGrasse Tyson [1] has done it again: he has dismissed philosophy as a useless enterprise, and actually advised bright students to stay away from it. It is not the first time Neil has done this sort of thing, and he is far from being the only scientist to do so. But in his case the offense is particularly egregious, ...

Here is Neil’s reply, in full:

“Up until early 20th century philosophers had material contributions to make to the physical sciences. Pretty much after quantum mechanics, remember the philosopher is the would be scientist but without a laboratory, right? And so what happens is, the 1920s come in, we learn about the expanding universe in the same decade as we learn about quantum physics, each of which falls so far out of what you can deduce from your armchair that the whole community of philosophers that previously had added materially to the thinking of the physical scientists was rendered essentially obsolete, and that point, and I have yet to see a contribution — this will get me in trouble with all manner of philosophers — but call me later and correct me if you think I’ve missed somebody here. But, philosophy has basically parted ways from the frontier of the physical sciences, when there was a day when they were one and the same. Isaac Newton was a natural philosopher, the word physicist didn’t even exist in any important way back then. So, I’m disappointed because there is a lot of brainpower there, that might have otherwise contributed mightily, but today simply does not. It’s not that there can’t be other philosophical subjects, there is religious philosophy, and ethical philosophy, and political philosophy, plenty of stuff for the philosophers to do, but the frontier of the physical sciences does not appear to be among them.”
I criticized him for this here and here.

Tyson is right to tell bright students to stay away from modern philosophers. XX century philosophers have started a war against modern science. Sometime about mid-century they all decided that there was no such thing as the scientific method.


  1. The new age philosophers are right.

    My landlord won't accept excellent marks in quantum mechanics, general relativity, and classical mechanics in lieu of funny fiat money. So what gives, the world is not scientific.

  2. Roger,
    The problem with discussing either science or philosophy in such accept/reject terms is that there is bad science (consensus on AGW being at 97%) posing as unquestionable fact (or be called a 'denier') and bad philosophy (Platonism of any flavor you name) posing as both science and good philosophy. Crap reigns supreme, I'm sorry, but it does. Herd mentality has more sway in physics and math circles than basic tenets of high school math, even the luminaries are bogus as Steven Hawking can't even be bothered to understand why poking additional matter into non-linear equations is not allowed, or that division by zero does not produce 'infinity'.

    If you can pull a rabbit out of a hat without a cause, a hat, a rabbit, a moment of time, or even a magician in the first place, please don't tell me how well the scientific method curbs such irrationality while philosophy courts it.

    Chaos theory? Quantum tunneling...walking...teleporting...skydiving...'fill in the blank' bullshit? Black Holes and submicroscopic dimensions based on empty math fields that contain no energy? Abstract strings posing as actual 'things' that can flex, vibrate, and physically interact despite being claimed to be indivisible and having zero width extension? Heuristic fudge as far as the eye can see posing as 'mechanisms' that inform matter and energy? Peer reviewed fraud for purely political objectives and continued funding? These are all commonly held beliefs and practices in the hallowed halls of modern 'science', problem is, they are balderdash and petty deceit dressed up by a community that ignores whatever it chooses whenever it is convenient, then much like Neil deGrasse Tyson himself, blathers how reasonable and rational they are in their methods even as they utterly fail in any kind of rudimentary historical accuracy. Apparently basic 'history' is beneath the almighty dignity of such learned ones. Modern science and it's methods are nowhere as firmly grounded in fact or methodology as its narrowly educated groupies would like to think.

    I agree with the philosophers. The scientific method is rapidly becoming a sham and Science IS indeed very fuzzy, and becoming more so by the day, because it breaks its own rules whenever it is convenient, or funding is at stake, or when personal political objectives intersect, or whenever it gets another paper published. Rigid methodologies can go a long way to prevent error, but only when they are actually followed by adherents who aren't trying to deceive themselves. Your claimed ideology or faith of whatever persuasion and title does not excuse your sins, ever, even when it is called 'science'.

    Before you get indignant, please, just remember to "..., first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." I hate to quote religious texts, but the shoe really fits in this case. Yes there is bad philosophy out there, but the twentieth century also produced more than enough unfounded garbage in the sciences to make such hypocritical blanket statements hilarious at best.

  3. The useless "science" rags called 'Nature' and 'Science' are garbage. The experimental setup is only provided online for petes sake. The peer review system is a joke. Almost all of those articles are fabrications.

  4. The book "Discrete or Continuous? The Quest for Fundamental Length in Modern Physics" c2014 Cambridge Press argues that the concept of infinite spacetime continuum is a massive fraud. He says mathematical logic is completely useless and that differential calculus is junk math and that pure math is degenerate. Oh boy.

  5. In the chapter Quantum Gravity: Current Approaches, he has a long section on string theory. He argues convincingly that the string theorists are tremendously confused.

  6. However, even huge material losses and impossibility to initiate real problem solution can be
    not the most serious consequences of such “unlimited” deviation from elementary criteria of truth in
    science. As the purely empirical, technical science possibilities grow at a spectacular rate, their
    power exceeds now the whole range of natural structure complexity [35,36,60]. Correspondingly,
    arbitrary application of those empirical tools based on illusive mathematical structures and now
    multiply disproved postulate of their “unreasonable effectiveness” is practically equivalent to the
    premeditated destruction of those real structures, with unpredictable consequences but guaranteed
    failure of “theory confirmation by experiment”. The omnipotent tsars of official science are well
    aware of the related dangers (see e.g. [39]), but they continue to impose their “old good” trial-anderror
    method beyond the well-specified limits of its applicability and any reasonable efficiency.
    In that way, purely abstract structures can lead indeed to quite tangible, negative
    consequences for the real world they miss to describe but can effectively destroy. A part of that
    destruction already clearly appears in physics in the form of practically lost interest of public and
    related lack of creative young researchers, which only amplifies the crisis of science content and its
    corrupt organisation practices. It's clearly a time for revolution: what else can reverse those deadly
    tendencies and transform the current deepening crisis into a sustainable progress?

  7. Quantum computers, nano-technology, and other “applied” giga-frauds
    Whereas growing difficulties of basic science acquire a fundamental, inevitable origin and
    consistent explanation (sections 2.1.1-2), it remains to hope that scholar research can have brighter
    perspectives in its more applied aspects, exemplified by recently appeared “hot” fields of quantum
    computation, nano-bio-technology, thermonuclear fusion revival, and various “computer science”
    applications, from new materials design to climate simulations. Closer examination of those billionworth
    new “advances” shows, however, that conventional science has quickly degraded from
    inconsistent imitations of reality to open “intellectual” fraud based on shamelessly “strong” promises
    that can never be realised, according to undeniable, multiply confirmed laws of the same science.
    Thus, unitary quantum computation idea, consuming in the last years practically the whole
    volume of quantum physics and related research (it's enough to have a look at the paper list in quantph
    section of, provides a typical example of that strange combination of strong doubts
    about its practical realisation and ever growing publicity and investments into the extremely dubious
    enterprise. Indeed, even its active participants openly acknowledge that the most probable expected
    result of the whole activity is that full-scale quantum computers cannot be built [81]. There are
    numerous (but “strangely” ignored) particular doubts in fundamental quantum computer feasibility


    And finally there is a causally complete analysis of
    the universal science of complexity [36] that shows, within a realistically extended picture of
    quantum behaviour (including genuine quantum chaos), why exactly quantum computers cannot
    fulfil their promise even under most “ideal” conditions of their operation. It is easy to see that such
    causally substantiated conclusion simply confirms (and now realistically explains) standard quantum
    postulates (and other fundamental laws, including entropy growth), which are already multiply
    confirmed experimentally and contradict the very idea of unitary quantum computation [36]. It is the
    scandalously abusive play on supernatural “quantum mysteries” of official “rigorous” science
    (“multiverse interpretations”, etc.) used now for invention of real, practically efficient devices that
    has permitted such incredible (and ever growing) deviation from elementary consistency and honesty.
    But why can such ultimately perverted activity continue in all the “best” scientific institutions and
    programmes? It can simply because some officially “leading” scientists have their purely subjective
    and absolutely unbalanced preference for the underlying manipulation with abstract symbols and
    “fantastic” promises, while the “embedding” system of science organisation has neither real
    possibilities, nor interests necessary for critical limitation of such abuses (see section 2.2). Such is
    another real result of the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” (section 2.1.2).


    A similar loss occurs in a yet larger field of biological applications of “exact” sciences,
    where their usual, unitary doctrine cannot explain the specific life properties even qualitatively, but
    proposes instead an infinite number of over-simplified mechanistic imitations of living system
    dynamics and rejects a realistic analysis providing unreduced life properties as manifestations of high
    enough levels of universal, interaction-driven dynamic complexity [35,36,64,65].
    The same “sale” of nonexistent and improbable science results at a super-high price
    dominates in the field of controlled thermo-nuclear fusion for energy production that suffered from
    serious difficulties in a previous period (the end of the last century), but now has won a new, huge
    support (ITER project), despite the absence of practical progress or even theoretical solution. And
    here again, the real, underlying problem is due to irreducible dynamic complexity effects that just
    cannot be properly treated within the unitary science doctrine in principle. Not only strong and
    diverse plasma instabilities (due to the genuine, rather than simulative chaos) create particular
    difficulties in development of intrinsically inefficient hot fusion schemes, but much more efficient and
    promising approach of cold fusion can be formulated exclusively in terms of complex behaviour and
    therefore, not surprisingly, is either totally neglected, or pushed to a far margin of official science
    activity (on the background of multi-billion support for provably inefficient hot fusion). Needless to
    recall, we deal here with not only practically appealing, but urgently needed application of global
    importance; and still the official science machine prefers to support its “best” (i.e. self-selected)
    people interests, rather than the objective science quest and related interests of humanity.

  10. And finally, as if in order to definitely kill any remaining hope for occasional knowledge
    progress in the epoch of the end of science [3], the official science establishment gives a very strong
    support to a major “new science” imitation in the form of computer (simulation) science (see e.g.
    [88,89]) and its extremely vast scope of applications (“everything can be put in a computer” and
    simulated). Even apart from the evident fact that a “computer experiment” cannot provide in itself
    any additional understanding (while it is far less precise than real observation results and often simply
    unrealistic), the unreduced, multivalued dynamics analysis reveals the fundamental deficiency of such
    basically single-valued imitations (cf. section 2.1.1) prone to multiple instabilities and related
    arbitrary large deviations from real phenomena. A characteristic example of such glaring inefficiency
    of “computer science” is provided by various simulations of the “system Earth” behaviour in relation
    to quickly growing ecological problems (e.g. [90]): after practically unlimited financial investments
    into the field one gets only the result that could be clearly expected from the beginning: the predicted
    “effect” is of the same order as the differences between various “supercomputer” simulation results,
    so that in the end one still can rely exclusively upon real system observations.

  11. In all these cases, a logically strange but inherent property of the mechanistic science
    approach appears in its ultimately absurd form: the official positivism imitates everything it can using
    all practically accessible, ever more perfect tools of purely empirical technology, irrespective of the
    obtained results utility or any real scientific purpose of their production (now practically absent). It
    is the empirical tool technology that becomes the purpose in itself. One deals here with infinitely
    multiplying and cycling circles of “trial-and-error” efforts looking “promising”, due to the growing
    technical possibilities of new tools, but in reality dropping dramatically in efficiency down to
    practical zero because of the “exponentially huge”, practically infinite number of interaction
    possibilities within every “truly complex” (large enough) system dynamics [36,63-66]. The resulting
    deep impasse is evident: no progress is possible within the officially imposed science paradigm, and
    the more is the power (and cost!) of technical tools applied, the smaller is the hope to get out of
    vicious circles of unitary thinking. The epoch of blind empiricism is finished and it becomes really
    dangerous now, but still persists without practically visible limits, selfishly suppressing any attempt of
    provably efficient knowledge development. Only decisive, qualitatively big transition to the
    unreduced analysis of real, multivalued system dynamics can put an end to exponentially growing
    expenditures for successively failing, practically fraudulent giga-projects and open the urgently
    needed era of causally complete solutions to “difficult”, and now critically stagnating, problems.


    Still much more simple, physical systems also easily escape the proclaimed omnipotence of the
    scholar science: although many people have become prosperous due to the astronomical investments into
    the field of high-temperature superconductivity, its mechanism remains unclear, after many years of very
    intensive investigation. The novelties in this and many other fields of physics appear as a result of a
    basically empirical, intuitive search resembling the more and more a modern version of the glorious
    alchemy. And where are the promised and generously sponsored inexhaustible sources of energy, like
    the controlled nuclear fusion, or really intelligent, 'thinking' computers? There is a whole list of the
    announced scientific miracles that have evidently crashed upon the same barrier of cognition, clearly
    seen now, after the initial period of apparently 'promising' development.
    Finally, at the very basement of the universe we find the same impenetrable barrier, resisting to all
    human forces. The mysteries of quantum mechanics remain as unsolvable as they were at its origin, over
    70 years ago, but now they are provocatively puzzling. The announced 'Great Unifications' of the
    elements of Being and Theories of Everything are transformed into a gibberish of artificial, abstract
    symbols where everything is indeed possible, as they are irreducibly separated from reality. The famous
    'unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences' has become a simply unreasonable
    sophistication, effectiveness left apart. It is clearly demonstrated by the easily performed comparison
    between the enormous volumes and generous support of directions like 'mathematical physics' and the
    total absence of a consistent, physically sound solution to any nontrivial real problem they are supposed
    to induce.

    Clear functional signs of profound corruption are accumulating behind the technocratically
    maintained facade of the official science: omnipresent mediocrity and the veritable scientific parasitism
    actively suppressing the remnants of the genuine creativity; organised groups of dealers fighting for their
    personal promotion and using all kind of heavily formalised, 'scientifically looking' imitations of truth;
    proliferating unlimited 'blurring' of the indispensable and formerly firm ethical norms, - such are typical
    tendencies of degradation, consuming the whole institutions and fields of knowledge and emphasised by
    many serious and variously 'oriented' professionals in science and beyond

  13. Probably the most meaningful and impressive sign of death of the canonical science, somehow
    summarising all the particular features of its stagnation, is the clearly seen loss of interest in it from
    various people, represented both by narrow specialists and the general public, by society in the whole
    and individual enthusiasts. It is as useless to try to reanimate artificially the interest in the dead canonical
    science as that science itself. The impasse of that scale cannot be avoided just by mechanically pumping
    milliards into the straightforward attack and formal publicity campaigns, while this does produce enough
    harm by attracting too much force from the search for a qualitatively new approach that can alone lead to
    the issue. For an issue always exists, but this time it can be found only within quite a new type of
    thinking whose universality should comprise, by definition, at least the whole diversity of the existing
    The End of Science is just a particular manifestation of the overall saturation in the civilisation
    development. Indeed, who can seriously believe that such fundamental conflict in the knowledge
    acquisition is closed within itself? After all, everything in human activity is the search for a new
    knowledge, irrespective of the accepted definition of science.
    The economical, social, and cultural development of the world, as it is directly represented by the
    state of the 'developed' countries, has attained the same stage of fundamental local exhaustion as the
    scientific progress. It is characterised by the obvious global stagnation, the absence of a well-defined
    general direction in the dynamics of a system, this indispensable sign of its progressive development.
    Moreover, the decadent, descending motion, inevitably replacing the absent progress, is clearly
    discernible in the modern world dynamics.


    Complexity, nonlinearity, chaos, self-organisation, criticality... The flood of stylish words,
    pretentious publications, and advanced study centres originates from a new hope to create the unified
    science of complexity and explain at last everything within a single approach reproducing the intrinsic
    unity of Nature. However, the proposed concepts fail, one after another, and the predicted universality
    definitely escapes the most sophisticated developments of the mechanistic science including the highest
    supercomputer powers (Horgan 1995).
    But the Universal Truth has seemed to be so close, with its vague contours already emerging from
    the disappearing mist of ignorance, and it remains the more attractive the more it resists to the massive
    attacks of the heavily armed formalism. Something qualitatively new is needed to see it, something
    fundamentally different, universal and therefore probably not so intricate in its form. One does not need
    a sophisticated key to open a tricky lock, the entrance is free, one just needs another vision to see it. The
    Truth reveals itself only to those who already have the germ of it inside their minds.
    In the meanwhile, the canonical, or linear, science has entered the phase of absolute and helpless
    stagnation which is only emphasised by the growing success of certain its practical applications. The life
    of an idea does not stop with its discovery and scientific elaboration, it is simply transformed from a
    fundamental revelation into a practically useful instrument. There are now only two contrasting types of
    observations, separated by an abyss: those considered to be perfectly understood and successfully used
    and those which cannot be understood at all despite the truly gigantic efforts applied and independent of
    their possible practical use. The rupture between the two is so unreasonably insuperable that it seems
    sometimes to be irrational.
    This is the End of Science, the complete saturation of the canonical, mechanistic, unitary
    (linear) science that we knew until now, since it represents practically all the existing knowledge that is
    ordered enough to be classified as science (cf. Horgan (1996)).

  15. Anonymous,
    It's ok to run with a specific argument or line of reasoning, but cutting and pasting 17 (this is called spamming) entries into a single blog from someone else's written material is not a good idea and will end badly. Provide a link, not the whole paper.