A subject we have discussed here before has raised its head yet again. In January, theoretical physicist and Director of the Origins Institute at Arizona State University, Lawrence Krauss, published A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, a book that purports to explain how something — the universe — could have emerged from nothing, the kind of nothing implicated by quantum field theory. When actress/singer Miley Cyrus (yes, Miley Cyrus plays a part in this story) came under fire for tweeting a quote from Krauss that some Christians found offensive, Krauss’ book quickly became a bestseller, drawing raves from the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.
Despite being praised early on, Krauss’s book more recently has been picked apart by David Albert in the New York Times:
“The particular, eternally persisting, elementary physical stuff of the world, according to the standard presentations of relativistic quantum field theories, consists (unsurprisingly) of relativistic quantum fields… they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed. End of story.”
Krauss understandably doesn’t like the criticism, and has responded.
“Every time there’s a leap in physics, it encroaches on these areas that philosophers have carefully sequestered away to themselves, and so then you have this natural resentment on the part of philosophers.”
At one point, he actually referred to Albert as a “moronic philosopher”.
Physicists like Steven Weinberg and Stephen Hawking have also famously dismissed philosophy as passe, causinng a stir amongst intellectuals. New York City skeptic and philosophy professor, Massimo Pigliucci answers Krauss (and the others) here, on behalf of philosophy.
But . . .
What do you think? Who is right? Scientists? Philosophers? Is philosophy dead? Has science all but made it unnecessary? What exactly do we get from philosophy? Does it do anything to progress the human experience? Is this just a case of apples and oranges?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.