The Multiverse vs. Interdisciplinarity

Cross-check: Is speculation in multiverses as immoral as speculation in subprime mortgages?.

Interesting on a number of levels. The blogger is right to say that notions like string theory are not “science” in the sense of predicting things and putting forward falsifiable claims.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. As I say in another blog, to call someone a physicist is to say that said researcher is specializing in the philosophy of physics. As a philosopher, he/she will practice philosophic faith, following possibililties that might not fit in the disciplinary enclosure of doing day to day natural science.

So I would recommend that we encourage physicists to fulfill their function as imaginative, creative philosophers but that they do this more forthrightly, recognizing when they are in the philosophic mode of expressing possibilities rather than the natural science mode of explicating falsifiable hypotheses. It could be a great boon to the advancement of our philosophic inquiries about the world.

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3 Responses to The Multiverse vs. Interdisciplinarity

  1. Carl Sachs says:

    Part of the problem here, maybe, is that the disseminators of scientific knowledge lack the training to distinguish between scientific knowledge and metaphysical speculation.

    So while I applaud the thought that our popularizers of scientific findings should be encouraged to distinguish between “the philosophic mode of expressing possibilities” and “the natural science mode of explicating falsifiable hypotheses,” I’m not sure how to go about actually encouraging that distinction. (In connection with this, Mary Midgley’s careful examination of the unacknowledged metaphors at work in Dawkins and Wilson should be taken much more seriously.)

    Closer to home, for me, are the questions as whether a dogmatic commitment to ‘empiricism’ hinders the explication of scientific practice, whether Popper’s philosophy of science should be accepted as uncritically as Horgan does in the article linked to above, and how best to configure the relation between scientific theories and comprehensive metaphysics. So much to do!

  2. Keith Brown says:

    I would actually say that the work Michael O’Rourke is doing with his colleagues on the Toolbox Project is a starting place to encourage specialists in the natural sciences to take back up the mandate to philosophize.

    During his visit to UNT last week, it became apparent to me that Prof. O’Rourke is dealing with scientists regularly who are philosophizing in order to overcome their “conceptual commitments” and to see a way toward new solutions in their research. We spoke briefly about encouraging them in resolute philosophizing. The issue really boils down to whether thinkers in the sciences are willing to be labeled philosophers from time to time. Some may fear that name being put on them as much as some fear being called “advocates.”

  3. Carl Sachs says:

    philosopause noun, a point at which a researcher, weary of or frustrated by rigorous laboratory-based science, begins to look for nonscientific, philosophical explanations instead: “Too many of the characters [in John Horgan's book The End of Science] have entered the phase of their career that has been called ‘the philosopause.’ They have retired from the university or grown bored with lab work, and so have taken up professional cogitation” (Natalie Angier in The New York Times).”

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