Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Is Philosophy Dead?

By Peter Bowditch

Beware the strawman when arguing that science has outgrown philosophy.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Smart people have recently talked about the uselessness of philosophy with regard to science. Yes, science grew out of philosophy, but the claims are now that science has outgrown philosophy completely and it has no relevance at all. An example is a recent video made by Bill Nye in which he responded to a student asking him: “Is philosophy meaningless?”.

The problem with his comments was not that they were just wrong about philosophy; they were fractally wrong. Nye didn’t know what he was talking about. His concept of philosophy was extremely naïve.

I really want to talk about the error that people like Bill Nye have made when criticising philosophy. It’s an error that we constantly accuse our opponents of doing: going into debate or battle without knowing what it is you are really arguing against.

I think the worst logical fallacy is the use of strawman arguments. There is no way to recover from attacking something that your opponent has either never said or doesn’t believe or which totally misrepresents their position.

Much of the criticism levelled at Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion was that he got theology wrong and set up many strawmen to argue against. Several cogent responses to the book from people who knew a lot more about theology than Dawkins showed that many of the targets he had set up he had invented himself.

We know that...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.