Science and Philosophy

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Gwazi Magnum, Mar 24, 2016.

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  1. So, about a month ago Bill Nye apparently gave an opinion piece on Philosophy.

    And some people who normally agree with Bill are responding in disagreement.

    As someone who took Philosophy in High School my understanding of Philosophy isn't foreign, but it's no where near expert either... And over the past 4 years it has definitely become foggy/rusty. So I could kind of see where Bill was coming from, but there was also that part for me that just sounded... off. Like something was being missed, but I really couldn't place my finger on what exactly.

    That ended up leading me here:

    And honestly? I'm still a bit lost. It seems like he had a lot to say, but the real meat/clarity of his arguments were lost (on me at least) from having to fit the explanation into the length of a YouTube video. But if there's one thing I remember clearly about Philosophy back in High School, it was always at it's prime when everyone could get involved in the discussion and gave their own viewpoints and perspectives.

    So, basically what is everyone else's thoughts on this? Do you agree with Bill? Disagree with Bill? Are you on the fence or simply unsure of what to make of it?

    Side Note: I remembered while typing this there's actually a Wait But Why article about the relation between Science and Philosophy Spirituality (derp). Worth a read for those who are fans of long wordy rants about not so simple topics (and/or need something to Procrastinate with for a while).

    But... If I'm recalling it all correctly, even here there seems to be some disagreement. Cause the article more seems to address individuals finding their own code on outlook to life, while the criticisms around Nye seem more focused on addressed specific laws such as "I think therefore I am" (again, I might be misunderstanding this horribly. If so PLEASE correct me). (Derp)

    So I should probably add an extra question (for those who bothered reading the side note) of "What do you personally find philosophy to be about?".​
    #1 Gwazi Magnum, Mar 24, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
  2. Well, we could start with the fact that he seemed completely stuck on the whole "what is the nature of reality/consciousness" sort of question, even though that's only one of the many questions in philosophy. Perhaps a question Bill might find more interesting is something like, "are ethics/morals universal?" This is a question that still won't ever give you a concrete answer (nothing in philosophy will, and that's not the point), but, at the very least, it doesn't go into the radical territory of saying "everything science says is true is actually an illusion and I'm just a brain in a vhat", sooo... Yeah.

    Regardless, he's right that philosophy doesn't give you hard answers, but that's not the point of philosophy. If it gave hard answers, it would be a hard science. But since it isn't, the point of philosophy is just to make you... think about stuff. Tackle some interesting questions.

    Not to mention, not every philosopher has the Descartes-esque view of everything being an illusion (in fact, I'd say that probably very few of them take that to heart), so the way that Bill assumed he'd be of that mindset honestly sounded condescending. >_>

    As for the bit about there being not a lot of career options out there? Yeah, that's a valid concern, I'll give him that. But everything else... Yeah, he pretty much simplified philosophy down to ONE viewpoint of ONE philosophical question, which... really doesn't get into what philosophy is.
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  3. The main thing is, as I see it, that philosophy is more about the question than the answer. Whereas science strives for answers and practical applications. The base for the conclusions of science are what we can perceive as humans in one way or another rather than the endless string of what-if's of absolute truth. Therefore, what we consider as truth or evidence only requires to be measured by human perception. I know from personal experience a lot of neurology turns into philosophy in an MRI depending on what tangent you go off on, simply because it's complicated to understand or incomplete in many ways and the further to the extents of what science is able to explain you go, the more questions you realise still exist. Philosophy is an exploration of these questions, but it doesn't provide practical answers. You can find them interesting, philosophy may bring up new questions, but at the same time there's a good reason there's not much of a job market for it.
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  4. I think what happened here is that Bill Nye, being not very familiar with the general body of philosophical work, got stuck on metaphysics and disregarded the other branches of philosophy. If he were prodded on his thoughts about philosophy as it pertains to a branch other than metaphysics I have a feeling he would give a much different answer. Kaga already brought up ethics, but there are three other major branches that he would probably be less dismissive of: aesthetics, epistemology, and logic. He wasn't exactly wrong in saying that a lot of philosophy winds up at "your senses are lies, physical existence is meaningless" in one way or another, because that's a part of the thoughts of many of the biggest names in the history of the field, so I can understand why he might have that impression of philosophy as being wholly concerned with that kind of thing if he never delved very deep into the topic... but that's a very shallow view of the subject and as such it is lacking in a lot of areas. I love Bill Nye's work with science and what he's done to bring it to the masses in easily understandable terms, but the dude is by no means infallible and he kinda fucked up here. I have to agree that metaphysical philosophy often ends up in a meaningless circlejerk that would make Jaden "how can mirrors be real if our eyes aren't real" Smith cream his pants, but there's simply more to philosophy than that.

    As for that last question, I'll answer by explaining how philosophy and science are inextricably linked. Philosophy is the human pursuit knowledge and the truth. Science is the human pursuit of knowledge and the truth by way of empirical evidence. They are inherently related in their broad goals, but the methodology is vastly different. The direct ancestor to what we know as science was called "natural philosophy" back in the day, and funnily enough it was practiced by traditional philosophy big shots like Aristotle and Plato, alongside their other philosophizing. Science is the child of philosophy, using the carefully constructed frameworks of natural philosophy and logic to climb to greater heights in certain specific areas, but that does not invalidate or replace philosophy as a whole.
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  5. Alright, so far everyone seems to have mentioned Philosophies habit of not giving much answers but rather keeping people in forever thought. In which case do you find criticism from people like Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson of it basically being "People talking forever and never doing anything" to be legitimate? Or are the missing something when they say that?
    Do you think the fact Philosophy doesn't play much on empirical evidence plays a roll in Scientists dislike of it?
    And what would you say that Philosophy has that Science lacks which makes it not replaceable?
  6. Criticizing philosophy for that seems like an example of expecting philosophy to be something different than it is. Philosophy doesn't give hard answers -- that's just how it is. If you want hard answers... then you should be looking at hard sciences. :P

    It's like being a fan of movies, and saying you don't like books because they don't offer any visual element. And... you wouldn't be wrong in saying that, but, if you want visuals... you should stick with movies, because clearly books aren't giving you what you want. That doesn't make books bad, however -- they have their own merits. They just aren't offering what you're looking for.

    Philosophy asks questions that we can't answer, at least not yet. Science seeks answers that we can actually achieve.

    Some scientific fields -- like astronomy and psychology -- used to be wholly philosophical fields until we were able to concretely study these things from a scientific perspective. I mean, back before anyone had any idea what stars and planets were, and a good number of people still thought that the earth was flat and that the sky was a dome laid over the earth -- how was science supposed to answer the question of "what exactly is the sky? And what are all those things in it?". It couldn't -- not easily, anyway. Philosophy was what posed the question, and then, once science could sufficiently tackle those questions, it became a scientific problem.

    You can do the same with a lot of questions about the world that science can answer now, but couldn't a good while ago. Like, what is the origin of the universe? Today, the best scientific answer would be the Big Bang -- but before science had evolved nearly enough to have any concept of such a thing, the question of "what started the universe?" would be just as philosophical as "how do I know that reality is real?" -- because science couldn't answer it. It was only a philosophical question. And, even where science stands today, there's still room for a philosophical debate, because, well, there still remains the question: what caused the Big Bang? Was there anything before it? Could you say that time simply stretches back into infinity? Or would you have to argue that the world had to have started with something, some single event, to set the universe in motion? Can we really say that this event was the Big Bang? Or would something else need to have caused the Big Bang -- so, could you use this reasoning to "prove" the existence of God? Saying that some being would've needed to "start" the universe, and create the Big Bang? Or could you come up with some other explanation that does not require a God? How? What else could set such an event into motion, if not some other event that would then prompt us to ask -- "well what caused that"?

    Someday, we might have more scientific answers regarding this mysterious origin of the universe -- among other complicated questions. For now, though, everything that we can't know for sure is filled in with philosophy -- and I guess that's what makes it irreplaceable. It asks questions that we currently can't answer, but... it keeps us thinking. Keeps us inquisitive. And, in that way, I guess it feeds directly back into science -- because science is what happens when we are finally able to concretely answer these questions.
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  7. The talking forever and doing nothing criticism is partly true: you're not really going to get anything of real measurable worth out of metaphysics, epistemology isn't all that practically useful, and aesthetics will get you subjective pleasure in some ways. However, the philosophical branches of ethics and logic are extremely useful for making decisions and doing things. Unless you act on pure instinct and emotion, everything you do has some aspect of logic coming into play to make that action occur, thus it is kind of integral to coming up with answers to all sorts of practical problems. Ethics gives guidelines for how people ought to act in certain circumstances, and those guidelines can very easily be the answers to problems as well. So I guess my answer is that they're missing something when they say that.

    Absolutely the lack of empirical evidence is why so many scientists dislike philosophy. These are people who built their careers and perhaps their entire lives on the foundation of empiricism. Basically all of philosophy thumbs its nose at the concept of empiricism to some degree, whether it be the whole big "your perceptions are bunk" level or as small as saying morality is about feelings and preferences so science can't really come up with a perfect code of morals that fits every situation and person. I imagine it's frustrating as hell for someone to dedicate their life to empirical evidence, then hear people talking about how none of that science and medicine mumbo-jumbo matters because life is an illusion.

    Science lacks the capacity to come up with answers to subjective moral and emotional problems. For example, you find a $20 bill on the sidewalk just outside someone's house; do you leave it alone, take it, or bring it to the door to ask if the resident dropped it? The best science can do there is set up an experiment to see what people are most likely to do, which demographic groups are most likely to choose which option, and come up with some interesting information. What it cannot do is provide an important answer: what should you do in that situation? The only fields of science that might be able to give you an answer are the soft ones like sociology and psychology, but those are disciplines that straddle the line between science and philosophy anyway and they'd draw from the latter side to give you that answer. Philosophy is irreplaceable because it deals in the subjective whereas science is limited to the objective. Subjectivity exists, therefore philosophy is needed because science cannot fill that role.
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  8. Science and Philosophy are both logical deductions with entirely different objectives. Funnily enough, one of my favourite and least offensive YouTube channels out there, CGPGrey, did a bit of philosophy in his last video. Specifically, about consciousness.

    Anyway, keep in mind this next bit is just my own conjecture. Strictly, conjecture.

    Stephen Hawking and Neil Degrasse Tyson are ardently atheist. Bill Nye is ardently atheist. The idea that they're knee-jerk rejecting philosophy is not surprising because modern philosophy comments on the unknowable. They have had to fight pretty much their entire careers against people proliferating knowledge about the unknowable. They're fallible people, and they sometimes make mistakes, and they have their biases. Like the time Neil Degrasse Tyson misappropriated quotes from other people, or the time Stephen Hawking made a ludicrously paranoid comment about space aliens, or the time Bill Nye seriously tried to debate a creationist and thought it would go anywhere. :ferret:

    As for "what is philosophy about?" The core idea behind philosophy historically has always been about attempting to refine one's reasoning power. That's it. That's why you can have philosophy both give birth to scientific disciplines like physics, and complete fucking nonsense like astrology. Why it can ask tough questions about consciousness that should probably be explored, and spawn mental fields like ethics, and yet also spawn theology. Yes, theology, the same school of discipline that brought you such fascinatingly bafflingly stupid questions as "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

    The issue with defining philosophy is that it is one of humanity's most ancient and venerated, world-wide disciplines. There are many different schools of philosophy. Many of them. It is so wide reaching that it's almost the equivalent of saying "science is wrong." Okay, which part of science is wrong? Now take this issue and exacerbate it over four thousand years.

    There is no possible way in hell or high water that Bill Nye can possibly answer a question like that in a three minute YouTube video. So he specifically went after the heady scholastic types who ask nonsensical questions that don't provide any real world help to science. Which... Makes sense, because in the video he comments that the others are talking about "university philosophy." Which is often synonymous with the completely fucking useless degrees that come with them, and the large scale corruption that has been slowly wilting away at philosophy degrees over the decades.

    So, I offer a counter question.

    Which philosophy?
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  9. Due to the issue you mentioned above about it being so damn broad I'm keeping to two vague (and likely miss-named/assigned) categories.

    1) The "How do we know life, or anything is real?" kind.
    2) The kind that help with stuff like moral questions and exercise logical thinking skills.
  10. Extraneous thought experiments. Fun to think about, but not very fruitful. (Since it falls into the realm of the unknowable, commenting on it is about as useful as commenting on the existence of a God.)
    Ethics is a good school, though the debate will be as eternal as mankind itself. For exercising logical thinking skills? Most of philosophy fits the bill as is. The mere action of asking a question and attempting to figure out the answer refines critical thinking, though it's usually best to attach your queries and thoughts to beliefs which lead to real world consequences. (Ex: An ideology.)
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  11. Science and philosophy are connected entities-one might even argue science is a branch of philosophy (though it's very different one).

    Science deals with the empirical, where as philosophy deals with everything else. Some questions can't be answered with empirical evidence, as any evidence you bring about is simply part of the question. For example, "reality is an illusion" can't be disproven empirically, as any evidence to the contrary is simply part of the illusion.

    Same thing with ethics and value judgements as well-you can't empirically prove something to be ethical per say as the only way to test if something is ethical is to ask the opinions of morally fallible humans.
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