Massimo Pigliucci is a philosophy professor specializing in science and pseudo-science. He writes a lot. I used to follow his blogs and sometimes post comments there, but he deleted too many of my comments, so I gave up.
He is knowledeable about biology and evolution, but he writes nonsense on the subject of the hard sciences. I have criticized him on this blog, such as here
In particular, he has this funny idea that philosophers know more than physicists, and hates it when physicists ignore philosophers.
So I agree with Lubos Motl trashing Pigliucci's att on Feynman
. I won't repeat Lumo's points, but I address this:
To begin with, the history of physics (alas, seldom studied by physicists) clearly shows that many simple theories have had to be abandoned in favour of more complex and ‘ugly’ ones. The notion that the Universe is in a steady state is simpler than one requiring an ongoing expansion; and yet scientists do now think that the Universe has been expanding for almost 14 billion years. In the 17th century Johannes Kepler realised that Copernicus’ theory was too beautiful to be true, since, as it turns out, planets don’t go around the Sun in perfect (according to human aesthetics!) circles, but rather following somewhat uglier ellipses.
Pigliucci is wrong at every level.
The steady state model of the universe is not
simpler. It was plagued with paradoxes, such as
and the problem of why gravity does not collapse the galaxies. The expanding universe is the simplest solution to those puzzles.
The Copernicus theory was not
simpler and more beautiful than Kepler's. Pigliucci probably does not realize that Copernicus used epicycles. Ellipses are more beautiful that Copernicus's constructions.
The real problem with modern philosophers of science is not just that they are ignorant, arrogant, and irrelevant. The problem is that the field is dominated by philosophers who are anti-science
. They deny the scientific method, and much of what scientists believe. They have become enemies of science.
Mr Pigliucci mentions some times when physicists such as Einstein respected philosophers. ... Instead, those philosophers – especially the positivists – actually found some new ways of thinking that were used in the relativistic and quantum revolutions in 20th century physics. ... But nothing like that has taken place for quite some time – approximately for one century. And even Mach and the positivists were probably just lucky – even a broken calendar that shows the last two digits is correct once a century.
That is right. When Einstein was senile, there were philosophers of science who said sensible things. Maybe they were just lucky, I don't know. But that was almost a century ago. Philosophers of science have not said anything worthwhile in decades, and most of what they say is counter to science.
Update: Pigliucci ends with:
But philosophy has made much progress since Plato, and so has science. It is therefore a good idea for scientists and philosophers alike to check with each other before uttering notions that might be hard to defend, especially when it comes to figures who are influential with the public. To quote another philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, in a different context: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’
There are many examples of prominent physicists who educated themselves on philosophy before speaking about it. Feynman was one. A more recent example is Steve Weinberg, who wrote essays on the failure of modern philosophy to address what modern physics is all about.
We do not see philosophers similarly educated about modern physics. Instead, the dominant views among them are anti-science.