I mean, when you force Jerry Coyne to distance himself from you, you know your becoming radioactive. It would be sort of like having Jerry Springer disassociate from you on grounds of bad journalism.
Krauss, for those of our readers unfamiliar with the more exotic specimens of scientism, is a physicist at Case Western Reserve whose new book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing (which we will be reviewing later this week), marks a new low in a New Atheist literature characterized by not being very high.
Krauss' most recent flight from rationality occurred in a recent interview with The Atlantic, in which he goes after the discipline of philosophy. At least the old atheists knew better than to dismiss a whole field of study simply because they didn't understand it.
Here is Krauss, from the Atlantic interview, displaying his utter lack of understanding of what he is criticizing:
Philosophy is a field that, unfortunately, reminds me of that old Woody Allen joke, "those that can't do, teach, and those that can't teach, teach gym." And the worst part of philosophy is the philosophy of science; the only people, as far as I can tell, that read work by philosophers of science are other philosophers of science. It has no impact on physics what so ever, and I doubt that other philosophers read it because it's fairly technical. And so it's really hard to understand what justifies it. And so I'd say that this tension occurs because people in philosophy feel threatened, and they have every right to feel threatened, because science progresses and philosophy doesn't.Boneheaded Statement #1: The "only people who read philosophy of science" are "philosophers of science"? First of all that's a completely inaccurate statement. I happen to have on my mp3 player at this very moment two series of lectures published by the Great Courses on the subject. Not only am I not a philosopher of science, but the company that produces them makes money from people buying them, and I cannot imagine that there are enough philosophers of science out there to constitute a market if that is the only people purchasing them.
But why should it matter? Maybe Krauss could inform the public who else besides particle physicists read the complicated journal articles that appear in physics journals in that particularly specialty. How many do you think are cosmologists? If the legitimacy of a specialty in a discipline is going to be judged by how many people outside that specialty read in it, then what is fate of cosmology?
Boneheaded Statement #2: "It has no impact on physics what so ever, and I doubt that other philosophers read it because it's fairly technical. And so it's really hard to understand what justifies it." Huh? Is this even an argument? Why does philosophy of science have to have an "impact on physics"? And how would having an "impact on science" justify the philosophy of science? The point of the philosophy of science is not to have an "impact on physics" in the first place. It's supposed to offer a rational critique of science. If no scientist wants to listen (in fact, many of them do), then that's not the problem of the philosophy of science; it's problem with science.
Boneheaded Statement #3: "And so I'd say that this tension occurs because people in philosophy feel threatened, and they have every right to feel threatened, because science progresses and philosophy doesn't." What evidence does he have that people in the philosophy of science are threatened? How does he know what their motives are? Why shouldn't we believe instead that he feels threatened by the philosophy of science? And in what way has the philosophy of science not progressed? Does he really think there is not a greater understanding the what criteria should and shouldn't be employed in demarcating science from non-science today than 100 years ago? Or about the way science explains? Or about causality? Or about probability? Has he never heard of Leibniz? Berkely? Hume? Bayes? Whewell? C. S. Pierce? Bertrand Russell? Rudolf Carnap? Kurt Gödel? Karl Popper? Thomas Kuhn? Karl Hempel? Nelson Goodman? Ernest Nagel? Saul Kripke? Paul Feyerabend? Bas van Fraasen? Have these people really have made no contribution to any progress in the understanding of science--what it is, how it explains, and how it justifies itself?
This is just one paragraph folks, and it doesn't get any better. If Krauss isn't careful, he's going to give intellectual incompetence a bad name.