Monday, 12 July 2004 15:58

Hard Science and Philosophy

Is it even possible for scientists and mathematicians to understand or appreciate philosophy? Do they lack a neccessary nimbleness to discern philosophical questions or the impact of such answers? For many (most) among the "harder" sciences, philosophy shares a stage with religion, art, or fantastic child-like whimsy. Why is this? Could it be they are too judgmental or inflexible in their beliefs? Might they be too acquisitive to be distracted by the philosophical implications of their work? Are they not clever enough to understand it? Perhaps they are too shallow to even grasp fundamental questions?

Mike Alder (a mathematician) explains why practicioners of hard science don’t like philosophy but discretely pursue it anyway. He offers explination to explain why scientists and mathematicians are inclined to be dismissive of the subject. Additionally, Mr. Alder explains how and why they still explore philosophy pseudonymously.

The scientist’s perception of philosophy is that a philosophical analysis is a sterile word game played in a state of mental muddle. When you ask of a scientist if we have free will, or only think we have, he would ask in turn: “What measurements or observations would, in your view, settle the matter?” If your reply is “Thinking deeply about it”, he will smile pityingly and pass you by. He would be unwilling to join you in playing what he sees as a rather silly game.

Published in Academic
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