Monday, July 18, 2011

Science, What Is It Good For... Absolutely Everything

A couple weeks ago I was having a philosophical discussion with an acquaintance who has a strong background in science about the possibility of free will in a materialistic universe. The conversation took many twists and turns, and somehow we got to an area where I used principles of Quantum Mechanics to argue a point having to do with the subject of free will. My opponent objected. He claimed that science can only be used for measuring events which occur in the natural world. Science, he insisted, could have nothing to say about philosophical issues. I was completely taken aback. I did not know there were people who believed this. I saw it completely differently. I viewed science as a method for discovering objective truth in all areas of inquiry. I considered science (or maybe more exactly empiricism) the best tool that humanity possessed to discover truths about the nature of the universe, and that it should be used in all areas where we sought one of these truths. I thought that my view was the majority view among scientists.
It turns out that this is actually very controversial among scientists. His view is more common. This blows my mind.
I don't understand scientists who claim that science can have nothing to say about philosophy and/or values.
Luckily I've got at least one really smart guy on my side: Sam Harris argues this pretty effectively in this lecture.


  1. i'm with you nik, what an ass that acquaintance ... i would not be surprised he is also french. he wouldn't be my friend either! one little thing, i do not think harris is on your side, maybe you are on his side.

  2. Those French! Always with the semantics! How about we are on each other's side?

  3. postulate: a french will disagree with any opponent whether he is or not on his side.
    truth: 2+2=5 (for very large values of 2)

    please keep posting, you need to make a 'mailing update' so we know when you post (there is an option somewhere to do that i believe for those who want to follow the blog)

  4. French french french, the only think I like abou them are fries and toasts... :)

  5. OK Serge I added a "Follow by email" gadget, I hope that's what you meant.