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Bill Nye the Philosophy Shy

metaxasThe popular “Existential Comics” Twitter page appeals to a segment of the population most of us avoid at dinner parties. It’s humor at its most esoteric. But Existential Comics recently posted a real zinger that cuts scientific hubris down to size.

A scientists asks why philosophy matters. The philosopher counters and asks “Why does science matter?” The scientist thinks for a moment before replying that science matters because… And here, the philosopher interrupts him and says. “You’re doing philosophy.”

It would be funnier if so many scientists today didn’t share this ill-informed attitude toward philosophy. New Atheist rock star and Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins tweeted on Darwin Day that philosophers’ failure to anticipate Darwin was “a severe indictment of philosophy.” And theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking recently declared “philosophy is dead.”

Bill Nye “the Science Guy” took on the subject last month in a Big Think video on YouTube. A philosophy student contacted Nye to ask whether he, like so many atheist scientists, considers philosophy a “meaningless topic.”

In Nye’s rambling response, he characterizes philosophy as a curiosity—a field that raises “cool” but mostly trivial questions like whether the universe is real and whether we can know we exist. Philosophy is “important for a while,” he says, but can quickly devolve into “arguing in a circle.” And unlike science, philosophy rarely gives “an answer that’s surprising.”

Read more at breakpoint.org. 

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