Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Science and Philosophy: Inseparable

A Nobel Prize winner was speaking at a psychiatric conference recently. The speaker said truth is a product of the brain. During the question and answer session afterward, someone asked, “What if the brain goes wrong?”

We all know the brain can go wrong from many things: infections, injuries, drugs, psychoses, passions, prejudice. .. What if it goes wrong, asked the questioner, and then how will we know the truth?

Well, said the Nobel Laureate, that is a philosophical question. This was said by way of dismissal, as obviously the physicians in attendance all wanted to be scientific rather than philosophical.

But, but, but — wait just a doggone second! Is the question any more philosophical than the premise? If you say truth is a product of the human brain, what else is that, pray tell, but a philosophical statement?

Furthermore, science is a discipline unavoidably based upon philosophy, and a particular philosophy at that. Science is based upon the faith that there is a reliable, discoverable order in the universe. If you say there isn’t, then please note, you have not dispensed with philosophy! You’ve only changed your philosophy.

But in the process, you’ve also uprooted science. The new philosophy that says the order in the universe is only an appearance, is of course intended to remove support for religion. Instead it makes science impossible, because science is the opposite of chaos. If the ultimate reality were chaos, then there would be no use seeking any “laws of nature”, any relationships between things, or any way to put observations together logically. Experiments would prove nothing, because their results, however unvarying, would in principle be pure chance. Theories could predict nothing, because whatever appeared to be a natural principle would really be a random something churned up by the underlying chaos. Everything would be like an image of Jesus someone sees on a slice of burnt toast: a random set of markings having only the appearance of inherent meaning. Change the philosophy, you unravel science.


David Garner said...

You hit on the essential problem with this view when you rightly note that science, far from being removed from philosophy, IS a philosophy.

This attempt to divorce the two is akin to sawing off the branch one is sitting upon.

Matushka Anna said...

If it weren't so sad, it would be amusing to watch these people run around their theoretical hamster wheels...

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

It feels kind of weird, doesn't it, to see millions of ordinary people thinking more clearly than a Nobel Laureate?

GretchenJoanna said...

Many of us have experienced the fear of losing our minds, i.e. should the brain go wrong and we become someone different, maybe an old person who doesn't remember the people and events and skills that used to be crucial to his existence. If you don't trust that there is a God Who still knows you, that the mind is more than the brain, then I suppose the most logical thing to do, or have done to one, is to destroy the whole useless thing. Thank God these poor people are not usually logical.