Yes, you heard me correctly in class the other day. I did say, “Scientists should stick to science and leave philosophy to grownups,” and yes, I really meant it! Do remember, of course, that whenever I speak of “philosophy”, I intend a great deal more than a merely academic subject or department. I mean a Way.
No doubt there have been—and perhaps there still are—a few very exceptional individuals who can operate in an enlightened and enlightening way in both modes, but by and large a modern scientific education doesn’t train the mind for the dialectical fluidity that is a prerequisite for genuine no?sis; on the contrary it interposes what often prove to be insuperable obstacles.
How else to explain the fatuous pronouncements one finds in Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design? “Philosophy is dead”, he pontificates on the very first page. Why? Because it has not “kept up with science”, which alone can explain the universe. Though anointed by the media as perhaps “the smartest man in the world”, this author seems not to understand that the universe includes himself and that a scientific explanation of the explainer is impossible.
But setting the likes of Hawking aside, what about religious people who are also scientists? Doesn’t my taunt miss the mark in their case? I’m certainly not saying modern science inevitably turns its practitioners into atheists, or even agnostics. I do believe, however, that it easily—if not inevitably—stunts or warps their capacity for discerning Realities that can’t be empirically detected.
I was interviewed last fall on the subject of “Orthodoxy and Modern Science”, and I recently posted the video of that interview to my website. If you’re interested in a somewhat less teasing, but no less serious, criticism of the scientific mind, you might wish to click here.