51. A case for Science + Philosophy

Linked below is an interesting article written by a Phd student.

I am glad to see a research student writing about it, and importantly it appreciates the diversity of thought, and ends well with a disclaimer.

“My background, and therefore my suggestions, are mainly rooted in the Western tradition, but I aim to continue diversifying my education.”

In my opinion philosophy is a subject that ‘many’ scientists are reluctant to entertain, and sometimes are dismissive of it. Many of the great ones, including Feynman and Weinberg have criticized it. (If I’m correct, Einstein was not one among them)

But, with the emergence of technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, genetic engineering and stem cell research, philosophical questions become important. Even otherwise, asking philosophical questions about any work helps us appreciate aspects such as: what it is to do work and how our scientific thought and expression interacts with the external world. In a way it is path to self realization.

I am no way dismissing the criticism of great scientists, who may have had a valid point in how philosophical enquiry is conducted. But I think it is not prudent to just discard a school of thought that lays the foundation of how humans think and evolve.

It is important for us to appreciate that Manhattan project was a remarkable scientific achievement, but the consequences had deep and disastrous societal implications. In my opinion what was badly missing there was deeper philosophical enquiry. In an essence, it was a collective human failure, where science was right, and the philosophy was wrong.

Philosophical enquiry not only helps in the evolution of science, but also helps in understanding its interface with societies. And, as we know, how science interacts with western and eastern society can have different consequences.

The case in point is the business of science tuitions in India, and the emergence of online educational platforms which are worth a billion dollars or more. Remember that the science which is been taught in these online tuitions is essentially  the same across the globe, but how the society consumes, and for what reason, is very different.
On the same footing, it also says why so many Indians are attracted to godmen and there unscientific thought processes. It may be because people may have got only the scientific, utilitarian aspect of the knowledge, but not the philosophical component. In this case the concept of critical thinking, which is by no means alien to the eastern philosophy, has been lacking  in the mix of things. As an Indian society, with the rich tradition of debate and discussion, we cannot afford to lose this culture.

This is where philosophy matters : western, eastern, and their combinations.

It is important for us, humans, to combine science with philosophy. Otherwise, science will be an ill defined vector :  large in magnitude without any direction.


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