Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Scientism: An Interview with Dr. Edward Feser cannot in principle provide a complete explanation of the phenomena it describes. Science explains things by tracing them down to ever deeper laws of nature. But what it cannot tell you is what a “law of nature” is in the first place and why it operates. It really is amazing how unreflectively atheists and advocates of scientism appeal to the notion of “laws,” given how deeply philosophically problematic the very notion is. Earlier generations of scientists were aware of the philosophical puzzles raised by the nature of scientific explanation, and some contemporary scientists (such as Paul Davies) are also sensitive to the puzzles raised by the very idea of a “law of nature” (which is actually a holdover from an idiosyncratic theology to which Descartes and Newton were committed, but which Aristotelian and Scholastic philosophers reject just as much as atheists do).

But most contemporary scientists tend not to have the general education that figures of the generation of Einstein, Schrödinger, and Heisenberg did. They don’t know philosophy well, and they also don’t know what they don’t know. This goes double for the more aggressively atheistic ones among them -- people like Lawrence Krauss, Peter Atkins, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne. Hence they repeatedly commit very crude philosophical mistakes but also refuse to listen or respond when these mistakes are pointed out to them.

Anyway, the main reason scientism has the following it does is probably that people are, quite rightly, impressed with the technological and predictive successes of modern science. The trouble is that this simply gives us no reason whatsoever to believe scientism -- that is to say, it gives us no reason to believe that science alone gives us knowledge. To draw that conclusion you need to assume that if something is real, then it will be susceptible of a precise mathematical description that will make strict prediction and technological application possible. Now that is itself a philosophical or metaphysical assumption, not a scientific one. But it is also an assumption that there is not only no reason to believe, but decisive reason to reject, as I argue in the book.

What the mathematically-oriented methods of modern physics do is to focus on those aspects of nature which can be strictly predicted and controlled and to ignore anything that doesn’t fit that method. As a result, physics tends brilliantly to uncover those aspects of reality that fit that method, and which can therefore be exploited technologically. But it simply does not follow that there are no other aspects of reality. To think otherwise is like the drunk’s fallacy of assuming that his lost car keys must be under the street lamp somewhere, because that is where the light is. - Read More:Scholasticism vs. Scientism: An Interview with Dr. Edward Feser

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