Monday, November 16, 2015

Philosopher says scientism leads to leftism

A reader sends an example of a philosopher who supposedly has a scientific outlook. In this podcast, Alex Rosenberg trashes Economics as not being a science. He notes that while economists brag about being able to make certain types of predictions, they are usually completely unable to make any quantitative predictions with any reliability.

Rosenberg has a book on The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions.

One chapter is titled "Never let your consious be your guide". I am not sure if he misspelled "conscience", or he is making a pun, or what. Either way, he says "science provides clear-cut answers": You have no mind, you have no free will, and you have no capacity for introspection, rational decision, or moral judgment.

In this interview, he proudly declares his devotion to Scientism, even tho some consider it a pejoritive term. His true science is Physics, and he says he believes in bosons and fermions, and nothing more. But he never actually cites any scientific facts or theories to support any of his opinions. He shows no sign of knowing anything about Physics, except that particles are classified into bosons and fermions.

Even saying that everything is made of bosons and fermions is a little misleading. We have spacetime and quantum fields. Even the quantum vacuum is a nontrivial thing, and I would not say it is just made of bosons and fermions.

After nearly an hour of babbling about the merits of philosophical analysis, he gets to another subject that passes his scientific requirements: political leftism. That's right, the whole thing is just a build-up for a bunch of left-wing political opinions.

He denies that there are any natural rights, but strongly argues for a "core morality". This makes no sense to me.

He says he is "pro-choice" (ie, pro-abortion) but denies that people have any choices because his scientism implies a causal determinism that eliminates free will. So why is he in favor of free choice when there is no such thing?

He says that his scientism implies that we should be soft on crime, because it is inhumane to punish people for doing what they were pre-programmed to do. He also says it is wrong to reward people for hard work or successful business, because again, they are just doing what they were programmed to do. He concedes that we might want a market economy, because science shows that it works better, even tho economics is not a science. But people should never be allowed to get rich, because science proves that they will never deserve the riches.

This is all nonsense. It all rests on Laplacian determinism, but there is no scientific proof of that, and the great majority of physicists today reject it. Even if it were true, his reasoning doesn't even make any sense. He is like a Marxist who advocates pseudo-science with great certainty to fellow humanities professors who like the leftist conclusions and are too innumerate to see the fallacies.

A book review says:
Science – i.e. common sense – tells us that atheism is pretty much a certainty. The reason is quite straightforward. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that disorder and homogeneity steadily increase everywhere in the universe. Whatever physics has left to tell us, it almost certainly won’t contradict this fundamental law. But a purposeful agent, arranging things according to a conscious plan, would be transforming disorder to order. And this is never possible according to the second law (strictly speaking, it is possible, but so improbable as to be ruled out). This rules out most conceptions of God straight away. ...

Vividly and painstakingly, Rosenberg undermines our fundamental belief that we consciously direct our actions. He argues that it is impossible that any of the processes occurring in our brain can have representative content. They can’t be about anything at all. ... This means that our actions can’t, however much they seem to, be caused by thoughts about intended results, or indeed thoughts about anything at all. ...

Despite appearances, then, we aren’t capable of ordering the world by conscious design. In fact, our actions are never caused by conscious intentions. ...

Human life as a whole has no meaning, no goal, and no purpose. Neither our individual lives nor human history in general are governed by purposes – not our own, and not anybody else’s. ... Indeed, there is no ‘you’; the self is another one of those convenient fictions we use to roughly indicate blind processes that have no subjective centre.

The same goes for human history. All apparent progress – the spread of democracy or the global progression towards prosperity – are just local equilibria in a blind arms-race driven by blind selection.
This is neither science nor common sense. God could have created the universe in a very low entropy big bang, and intended that life evolve on Earth while entropy increases in the Sun.

Of course our actions are caused by conscious intentions. And human history has made progress.

I would rather stick to the science, but he does not have much science here, if any. What he has is philosophical nuttiness directed towards some sort of politically leftist nihilism.


  1. Funny. That's what I think when I read Lubos Motl's blog -- I hate it when he is right.