Over the last year or so, there has been a very public intellectual skirmish between some eminent physicists and philosophers. At one point it did degenerate into name calling. Someone from the philosophy dept. threw sand in a scientists face…and the scientist took his toys and went home. Sad. A catalogue of the skirmish has just appeared in the Ny Times Blog: Ny Times Blog
Here is a little background – some of which can be found in the articles. Things got started when Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and Director of the Origins Institute at Arizona State University, published a book “A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing.” These days, popularized science books about cosmology, physics, and quantum mechanics usually get good reviews and not much else is said. And that’s why I was quite surprised to read an incredibly negative review about the book in the NY Times by David Albert, a philosopher from Columbia University. Krauss was interviewed by the Atlantic – the link is in the Stone blog above. In defending his position, Krause labeled philosophy “useless” and referred to his opponents as “moronic philosophers.” More recently, evolutionary biologist Austin L. Hughes joins in the fray in a piece in the New Atlantic. The list of people in this fight also include Freeman Dyson and Stephen Hawking.
The entire affair is quite silly. The notion that science holds the answer to all of our questions is simply not true. Still, philosophy as a discipline must deal with its identity crisis. A crisis that began in the early part of the twentieth century and continues to this day. At some point I may offer more on this topic.