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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Science needs philosophy

The fad for using science to explain everything is misguided and dangerous

by Massimo Pigliucci
Rationalist Association
Originally posted July 19, 2012, and still relevant today.

Here is an excerpt:

The culprits are many and influential. Physicists Steven Weinberg, Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss, along with biologist EO Wilson, dismiss philosophy (and much of the humanities) as a leftover from pre-scientific thought, to be replaced by the objective and empirical truth arrived at by modern science, especially fundamental physics. Never mind that, as Daniel Dennett aptly put it a while ago, there is no such thing as philosophy-free science, but only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board unexamined.

And then there are the likes of Sam Harris, Jonathan Haidt, Alex Rosenberg and Jerry Coyne, who claim that science can provide answers to philosophical questions, and that moreover antiquated concepts like free will, consciousness and morality are just illusions, tricks played on us by our Pleistocene-evolved brains. We are not really in control of what we do and think, it’s all done automatically by an inner zombie whose actions were determined since the Big Bang. This despite the fact that serious neuroscientists like Michael Gazzaniga and Antonio Damasio are actually much more careful about what exactly their discipline brings to our understanding of the human mind.

The entire story is here.