The 19th century mathematician and historian of philosophy Augustus DeMorgan once issued a warning for the scientist who tried to venture into metaphysics: "[W]hen he tries to look down his own throat with a candle in his hand," he said, he needs to "take care that he does not set his head on fire."
Despite the warning, scientists have been setting their hair on fire ever since. And with the onset of the New Atheists, the need for philosophical fire extinguishers has grown exponentially.
The result has been scientists who, rather than assent to the existence of God, will believe in almost anything. One example is multiple universes, recently proposed by, among others, physicist Stephen Hawking. The belief in this, we are told with a straight face, is more rational than believing in God.
This is not a new idea, of course, having already been thought up--and rejected--by the Greeks.
Another more recent example is Jerry Coyne, a biologist who regularly practices philosophy without a license. He wrote an opinion piece for USA Today a month or so back wherein he announced to the world that free will was an illusion. Coyne's intellectual gears too are stuck in an earlier time, in his case, the early 20th century positivistic materialism that most philosophers themselves--including most of those who came up with the idea in the first place--abandoned back about the 1960s.
But Jerry still hasn't gotten the memo.
In his new post, he wrestle's with the only other theory of free will more absurd than is own materialistic one, namely compatiabalism--the idea that determinism and free will are consistent with one another. Coyne at least realizes that won't fly, but then, seeing that the only other alternative is to go outside his little materialistic world, he bites the bullet and denies free will.
At least we can credit Coyne with being consistently wrong.