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Philosophy of science: How to replace corrupt humanities with ridiculous ones

Hey, this phil sci jaw isn’t the GapYawnder you were expecting:

This month, we [Routledge, publishers] asked Alex Rosenberg – Professor of Philosophy at Duke Univversity and author of Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction – to tell us about why philosophy of science matters, and got some answers we didn’t expect!

Here. As in

A.R.: I think that the humanities are in serious trouble. In our culture science has secured more cachet and more resources owing to its successes in technological application and to its ever-expanding explanatory reach. Meanwhile the humanities have lost confidence in their own ‘canons’ for various reasons, and have not found a substitute. Too many humanists, following their French colleagues, have sought to fill this vacuum with ‘theory’– scientific-sounding but ultimately unintelligible babble, perhaps in the hope that it will be mistaken by students and the public for “science,” and rewarded as such. Additionally, they have sought to wrap themselves in the mantle of Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, meanwhile hoping that Kuhn’s book would also strip the mask away from science’s claim to objectivity and progress. The study of the philosophy of science is one important tool for demystifying this stratagem. Indeed, it is the most important one.Routledge: What was the “Sokal hoax” and how did that affect both the humanities and scientific research?

A.R.: One of the symptoms of the trend in the humanities described in my last response was provided by a physics professor, Alan Sokal, who produced a “pastiche”—an intentionally silly imitation—of the sort of ‘theory’ that humanists in the 90s were taking seriously. He called it “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” and he submitted to one of the important journals in this ‘theory’-besotted part of the humanities. I have to admit the journal was edited by famous scholars at my own university. They accepted it (without refereeing), and published it, after which Sokal revealed his hoax. Of course critics of the latest fashion in this high-prestige area of the humanities announced that the hoax revealed that the emperor had no clothes. Meanwhile the editors complained that Sokal should be condemned for academic dishonesty. They thereby showed no sense of humor or shame. Alas, among humanists the scandal was soon the subject of amnesia. Meanwhile scientists and philosophers of science had better things to do than continue to point to the emperor’s nudity.

Yes, but

Routledge: What sort of challenges does the field face now and what challenges do you think will be most salient in the future?A.R.: At the research frontiers of our field one big set of problems is in the philosophy of physics—trying to make sense of quantum mechanics—a theory that combines the greatest imaginable accuracy and breadth of predictive and explanatory precision, with complete unintelligibility. Add the testability problems and the multiverse possibilities of string theory, and it’s obvious why the philosophy of physics is ‘hot.’ Another area is my own special interest, the philosophy of biology, where questions about extending Darwinian theory beyond its original area of application—the evolution of lineages of individual organisms—to other levels of organization and even other domains, such as human behavior, cognition, morality, culture generally. Finally, the financial crisis has generated increased interest in the philosophy of science’s application to economics and the questions about its scientific prospects. Developments in each of these sciences and their cognate fields (for econ it would be cognitive social psychology, and evolutionary game theory) will set the agenda of the philosophy of science in the near future, I think.

Evolutionary psychology?! And he expects to be taken seriously by thoughtful people? He is also the author of forthcoming The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions.

Wow. People who live in gas houses couldn’t know zones.

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6 Responses to Philosophy of science: How to replace corrupt humanities with ridiculous ones

  1. I believe this is the same Alex Rosenberg Ed Feser has talked about (it’s in the link list).

    Also, the same Alex Rosenberg:

    Rosenberg was a member of the Group of 88 faculty in light of 2006 Duke University lacrosse case, who signed a letter thanking protesters “making a collective noise” about “what happened to this young woman.” The letter has been widely criticized as a prejudgment since no sexual assault occurred.[12][13][14] All charges against the players were eventually dismissed and the District Attorney, Michael Nifong who prosecuted the case, was disbarred and jailed.

    He’s something, I’ll give him that.

  2. semi OT:

    What Stephen Hawking doesn’t understand about heaven – NT Wright – Washington Post
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/....._blog.html

  3. You’re not one of those Feser acolytes are you?

    Feser opened my eyes to a lot of material that I was not even aware of before.

    I’d love to read a book by him on Aristotle, and then one on the use of Aristotle in Christianity.

    Wish list:

    How to Think Like An Aristotelian (And Why)

    How to Think Like a Thomist (And Why)

    Aristotle on Intelligent Design

    Aquinas on Intelligent Design

    Scholasticism for Today’s Mechanists

    The Philosophy of the Catholic Church: As It Ought To Be

    Feser makes a good point that we don’t think as we ought, but how do we fix that?

    nullusalus, I really appreciate the fact that you and vjtorley post here, and that’s not meant to demean anyone else. UD has some wonderful contributors.

    Even Ted Peters is posting here!

    nullusalus, one of my favorite authors is/was Stanley L. Jaki.

    Can I go wrong reading Jaki?

    vjtorley, if you read this, I know you said you would post on the Five Ways, I haven’t seen those yet. I suggested maybe one at a time. But would it be useful to first discuss each one of the four causes?

  4. BA77, I love N.T. Wright’s stuff.

    Did you know that he also argues for an AD 70 coming?

  5. Mung,

    I’m a big fan of Feser’s. TLS managed to put the philosophical debate on various things (design, mind, etc) in a way that was downright eye-opening for me – not only the thought of Aquinas and Aristotle, but also ‘modern’ philosophy, where it’s gone wrong, what state it’s in now, etc. It’s funny, since I hadn’t heard of him until I saw TLS and his blog. I figured “Why not” and bought it on a whim. Money well spent.

    Jaki I haven’t read much of, but I’ve heard very great things about. I think Ted Davis has said he thinks Jaki’s thesis on Christianity and science goes too far, but what I’ve read of him is downright persuasive – and certainly different from what’s usually heard.

    And, thanks for the compliments. Enjoyed your response re: “What to think about the designer”, by the way. That kind of frank response is something people need to hear more of on the subject of design.

  6. I’m a big fan of Feser’s. TLS managed to put the philosophical debate on various things (design, mind, etc) in a way that was downright eye-opening for me – not only the thought of Aquinas and Aristotle, but also ‘modern’ philosophy, where it’s gone wrong, what state it’s in now, etc. It’s funny, since I hadn’t heard of him until I saw TLS and his blog.

    TLS was also my introduction to Feser. Probably came across it on amazon due to interest shown in responses to “The New Atheism.”

    Since then I’ve bought his book on Aquinas, Locke, and Philosophy of Mind. (Not that I have read them all mind you!)

    I have his blog bookmarked, but am not a regular reader.

    From TLS I got to Etienne Gilson, and Francisco Suarez, etc.

    Like you, a whole new world.

    I’ve enjoyed Jaki for years, not so much for his take on the history of science but rather the way he approached “the Copenhagen interpretation” of QM.

    Enjoyed your response re:

    I’ll probably change my mind by tomorrow. :)

    Important to me are:

    1. The history and philosophical foundations of our ideas.

    2. The consistency and coherence of our arguments.

    3. Money.

    4. Jesus

    (Sorry Jesus, you came in fourth.)

    In order for ID to become more mainstream, the proponents of ID need to be much better equipped than they are today.

    ID has to get beyond the “hey, look how complex that is, Darwinism can’t possibly explain that” mindset.

    Frankly, I’m confused about how ID can embrace The Privileged Planet while also embracing young earth creationism.

    To me, such a position lacks coherence.

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