Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Philosopher of pseudoscience attacks scientists again

Massimo Pigliucci has posted another rant against physicists who disrespect modern philosophers:
It is simply historically incorrect to claim that positivism may underlie the current disagreements between philosophers and physicists, because philosophers have not considered logical positivism a viable notion in philosophy of science at least since the 1960s, following the devastating critiques of people like Quine, Putnam and Kuhn. If physicists still think that positivism commands the field in philosophy then it is the physicists who need to update their notions of where philosophy is. When Weinberg states that “it seems to me unlikely that the positivist attitude will be of much help in the future” he is absolutely right, but no philosopher of science would dispute that — or has done so for a number of decades.
Positivism does underlie the disagreements.

Most scientists are positivists. They may be familiar with philosophical definitions of positivism, but they broadly believe that they are using science to determine truths about the natural world, and positivism (and logical positivism) come closest to their views.

When scientists find out that philosophers rejected all of them in the 1960s, and replaced it with crackpot nonsense, then respect for philosophers disappears.

Pigliucci misrepresents the views of Steve Weinberg (and of the other scientists). Yes, Weinberg has some criticisms of positivism, but he still much more of a positivist than a follower of Quine, Putnam, Kuhn, or the other anti-science philosophers.

Much of academia today has degenerated into such anti-intellectual, anti-truth, anti-progress political nonsense that it is barely worth addressing. Philosophers have join the crackpots.

While Pigliucci trashes Larry Krauss for trying example why the universe exists (and for trashing a philosopher who reviewed Krauss's book title instead of the book), Scott Aaronson presents his own answer:
My view is that, if we want to make mental peace with the “Why does the universe exist?” question, the key thing we need to do is forget about the universe for a while, and just focus on the meaning of the word “why.” ...

Admittedly, suppose there were a giant red button, somewhere within the universe, that when pushed would cause the entire universe (including the button itself) to blink out of existence. In that case, we could say: the reason why the universe continues to exist is that no one has pushed the button yet. But even then, that still wouldn’t explain why the universe had existed.
This sounds a little like his explanation for why quantum computers ought to be possible. He says that no one has found a giant red button to make them impossible.

1 comment:

  1. Philosophers were never specialists. Philosophy is completely useless, as are many disciplines, when too much division of labor just employs dandies. If I was to make a serious criticism of progress, it would be that academia doesn't scale. Actually, our entire society has a problem with scale. You can't even keep track of all of their fluff writing, let alone limit the spread of misinformation.

    Chesterton, Belloc, Lasch, Kohr, Schumacher, etc... had some good points against the cult of "improvement" and "bigness." I don't think they can be so easily dismissed, even if we may find major points of disagreement with them. It's certainly true that an unjustified pessimism is destroying Western society. The obsession with Greek tragedy always had a sadomasochistic streak and the liberal has always been an aloof melancholic. You can't put them in charge of anything. At the same time there is an equally-destructive millenarianism left unchecked in certain realms of "science" that promotes a technocracy. This is also very harmful.

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