A remarkably good essay about the dynamic tension–science and philosophy

I thought this essay extraordinary for the insight provided so efficiently.

It reminds me of the many times people have commented that this website has no business talking about social sciences and politics, but I would challenge any thinking person to distinguish intellectual inquiry in the social sciences or politics from studies in the hard sciences. Except, of course, for the uncertainties–they are much more prevalent in the soft sciences.

The dangers of Utilitarianism, the importance of the individual but the need for society and civility, the role of philosophy in assessing the discuoveries of science.

This writer provides a lot to chew on.

I think philosophy should be assessed as multifaceted–for example ethics/morality/politics are applied philosophy and essential to a study of the human condition and the social/societal dynamics of human existence.

I can allow for metaphysics to be a mind game however I think it important not to push the envelope too far on the mysteries of how we came to be and what is unique about self-aware cognition.

Complexity, as Thomas Nagel has emphasized, maybe be resistant to our scientific as well as philosophical inquiries.

I am with philosopher Thomas Nagel (NYU University Professor) when he says that we are up against a wall when we claim to understand evolution and the relatedness of living things, or thee nature of consciousness–I am not a creationist but I think the Dawkins selfish gene is silly anthropomorphism.

The Darwinian modification/selection theory has big holes in it–most of all the silliness of ignoring functional complexity. Too often evolutionists jump on some intra-species modification and adorn it as another “proof” of evolution when it doesn’t come close to explaining the question of diverse functional complexities and the vast array of functionally complex living things that metabolize and reproduce with incredible accuracy and reliability. A mysterious force for functional complexity is yet to be discovered.

I also agree with Nagel that consciousness is beyond our comprehension and sometimes neuroscience is just looking at what we can measure and see but an exercise in magical speculations.

There is functionality of the brain that we cannot comprehend in terms of digital switching or even cloud type software. A couple of pounds of brain that can’t be built or duplicated should give pause to those who keep promoting the future of Artificial Intelligence as the answer. A really, really big computer is still not a brain.


Nagel and I can and must live with the uncertainties.


2 responses to “A remarkably good essay about the dynamic tension–science and philosophy

  1. “The obvious truth is that the moment any matter has passed through the human mind it is finally and for ever spoilt for all purposes of science. It has become a thing incurably mysterious and infinite; this mortal has put on immortality. Even what we call our material desires are spiritual, because they are human. Science can analyse a pork-chop, and say how much of it is phosphorus and how much is protein; but science cannot analyse any man’s wish for a pork-chop, and say how much of it is hunger, how much custom, how much nervous fancy, how much a haunting love of the beautiful. The man’s desire for the pork-chop remains literally as mystical and ethereal as his desire for heaven. All attempts, therefore, at a science of any human things, at a science of history, a science of folk-lore, a science of sociology, are by their nature not merely hopeless, but crazy. You can no more be certain in economic history that a man’s desire for money was merely a desire for money than you can be certain in hagiology that a saint’s desire for God was merely a desire for God. And this kind of vagueness in the primary phenomena of the study is an absolutely final blow to anything in the nature of a science. Men can construct a science with very few instruments, or with very plain instruments; but no one on earth could construct a science with unreliable instruments. A man might work out the whole of mathematics with a handful of pebbles, but not with a handful of clay which was always falling apart into new fragments, and falling together into new combinations. A man might measure heaven and earth with a reed, but not with a growing reed.”…..GK Chesterton….Science and the Savages….from Heretics

    “Before you can ask ‘Is Darwinian theory correct or not?’, You have to ask the preliminary question ‘Is it clear enough so that it could be correct?’. That’s a very different question. One of my prevailing doctrines about Darwinian theory is ‘Man, that thing is just a mess. It’s like looking into a room full of smoke.’ Nothing in the theory is precisely, clearly, carefully defined or delineated. It lacks all of the rigor one expects from mathematical physics, and mathematical physics lacks all the rigor one expects from mathematics. So we’re talking about a gradual descent down the level of intelligibility until we reach evolutionary biology.”
    ― David Berlinski , The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and it’s Scientific Pretensions

  2. The very idea that science and philosophy are different disciplines is false; It is all philosophy. For example, engineering is understood as natural philosophy, just look at the terminal degree in engineering, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). The problem is that some things are repeatedly and accurately measureable, and other things are not. So, natural philosophy is considered a hard science because of the practitioner’s ability to describe and measure processes and control outcomes. If it were not so we would not trust bridges, elevators, and aircraft. Unfortunately, other parts of natural philosophy want to wear a cloak of certainty to cover up weak foundations. They claim the term science to make people overlook that much of what they do is really art. There is nothing wrong with having science and art go together, and when working with people art is required. People are the inherent problem in the social sciences, but that is also why it is so interesting.

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