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  • Writer's picture Peter Kupisz

Close Relationship Between Science and Philosophy

Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a respected scientist and outspoken atheist, has spent considerable time decrying the value of philosophy. He is fond of making claims that praise science but denigrate philosophy.

One thing to note about this view is that it seems to assume a clear separation between science and philosophy. Another thing to note is that much of Krauss' antagonism toward the discipline has been expressed after a number of scientists and philosophers (including non-religious ones) pointed out significant philosophical problems with his views on God and the universe. This suggests that his antagonism towards philosophy might stem from his philosophical troubles in arguing against theism.

Despite Krauss’ strongly held views on the matter, many of his fellow atheists argue that there is no strong separation between science and philosophy. And given the way the two disciplines intertwine each other, one would expect less hostility from people like Krauss. Dr. Sam Harris is one atheist who points out how closely related science and philosophy really are.

First, we should observe that a boundary between science and philosophy does not always exist. Einstein famously doubted Bohr’s view of quantum mechanics, and yet both physicists were armed with the same experimental findings and mathematical techniques. Was their disagreement a matter of "philosophy" or "physics"? We cannot always draw a line between scientific thinking and "mere" philosophy because all data must be interpreted against a background theory, and different theories come bundled with a fair amount of contextual reasoning…. So while there are surely some philosophical views that make no contact with science, science is often a matter of philosophy in practice. It is probably worth recalling that the original name for the physical sciences was, in fact, "natural philosophy."

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Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, 1st Free Press hardcover ed (New York: Free Press, 2010), 179–80.



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