Monday, April 23, 2012

Interview With Lawrence Krauss - Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?

{Don't miss our nomination period to nominate your most attractive physicists}

On the same day that I posted a rebuttal by Vic Stenger, the Atlantic published an entertaining interview with Lawrence Krauss in response to the recent attack on his book in the NY Times. In it, he showed how little he thinks about philosophy, or philosophy of science in particular.

I want to start with a general question about the relationship between philosophy and physics. There has been a fair amount of sniping between these two disciplines over the past few years. Why the sudden, public antagonism between philosophy and physics? 

Krauss: That's a good question. I expect it's because physics has encroached on philosophy. Philosophy used to be a field that had content, but then "natural philosophy" became physics, and physics has only continued to make inroads. Every time there's a leap in physics, it encroaches on these areas that philosophers have carefully sequestered away to themselves, and so then you have this natural resentment on the part of philosophers. This sense that somehow physicists, because they can't spell the word "philosophy," aren't justified in talking about these things, or haven't thought deeply about them---

Is that really a claim that you see often?

Krauss: It is. Philosophy is a field that, unfortunately, reminds me of that old Woody Allen joke, "those that can't do, teach, and those that can't teach, teach gym." And the worst part of philosophy is the philosophy of science; the only people, as far as I can tell, that read work by philosophers of science are other philosophers of science. It has no impact on physics what so ever, and I doubt that other philosophers read it because it's fairly technical. And so it's really hard to understand what justifies it. And so I'd say that this tension occurs because people in philosophy feel threatened, and they have every right to feel threatened, because science progresses and philosophy doesn't.

Whoa! Them's fighting words! If that doesn't start a fight with philosophers, I don't know anything that ever will! :)

You should read the rest of his interview, where he clarified quite a bit more on the central theme of his book. Very entertaining!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is all pretty ignorant, perhaps owing to physicists thinking that they are the most fundamental of the sciences. Well for a start we are mostly just reductionists, and by now ad absurdum. The philosophers really do have something to say to the neuroscientists, specifically that around 350 BC Aristotle had already demolished the modern Mind/Brain neoCartesianism. Check out the Hacker/Bennett/Searle/Dennett debates. We're not the only people around who can think.