[Marxism] Fwd: Physicists and Philosophers Debate the Boundaries o f Science | Quanta Magazine

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Thu Dec 17 06:55:11 MST 2015

My philosopher friends tell me that little serious work on the demarcation problem (i.e. on the elucidation of the criteria for demarcating legitimate science from metaphysics and pseudoscience) has been done in the last fifty years. In other words, not since the days of Popper, Kuhn, and Lakatos.  But this looks like an issue where the philosophers could really help out the physicists if they would only take a renewed interest in the problem.

BTW since this is a Marxist list, I would also note that the demarcation problem is relevant to the perennial debates over the scientific status of Marxist theory. Popper himself had held that while Marx's own work constituted legitimate science (because it was falsifiable), when parts of Marx's work were falsified later on, later generations of Marxists developed ad hoc hypotheses to immunize the theory from falsification. Popper contended that this process stripped Marxism of the status of being legitimate science. Popper also contended that psychoanalysis, from the get go, was never falsifiable, and hence, was always pseudoscience. One of the few people that I am aware of who has addressed the demarcation problem in relation to Marxism was the philosopher Richard W. Miller, in his book, Analyzing Marx. He contended that while Marxism was not necessarily falsifiable in Popper's sense, given a reconstruction of the notion of empirical falsification (drawing upon the work of Kuhn and Feyerabend), it could be argued that Marxism is falsifiable in this non-Popperian sense, and so constitutes legitimate science.  This reconstruction of the notion of falsifiability may also be relevant to the concerns of the physicists too. 

Jim Farmelant
Learn or Review Basic Math

---------- Original Message ----------
From: Louis Proyect via Marxism <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu>
Subject: [Marxism] Fwd: Physicists and Philosophers Debate the Boundaries of Science | Quanta Magazine
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2015 08:13:22 -0500

The crisis, as Ellis and Silk tell it, is the wildly speculative nature 
of modern physics theories, which they say reflects a dangerous 
departure from the scientific method. Many of today’s theorists — chief 
among them the proponents of string theory and the multiverse hypothesis 
— appear convinced of their ideas on the grounds that they are beautiful 
or logically compelling, despite the impossibility of testing them. 
Ellis and Silk accused these theorists of “moving the goalposts” of 
science and blurring the line between physics and pseudoscience. “The 
imprimatur of science should be awarded only to a theory that is 
testable,” Ellis and Silk wrote, thereby disqualifying most of the 
leading theories of the past 40 years. “Only then can we defend science 
from attack.”


 From the January Harper's (behind a paywall):

"Before the Big Bang: The physics and metaphysics of the creation of the 

By Alan Lightman

The quantum cosmologists are aware of the vast philosophical and 
theological reverberations of their work. As Hawking says in A Brief 
History of Time, many people believe that God, while permitting the 
universe to evolve according to fixed laws of nature, was uniquely 
responsible for winding up the clock at the beginning and choosing how 
to set it in motion. Hawking’s own theory provides an explanation for 
how the universe might have wound itself up — his method of calculating 
the early snapshots of the universe has no dependence on initial 
conditions or boundaries or anything outside the universe itself. The 
icy rules of quantum physics are completely sufficient. “What place, 
then, for a creator?” asks Hawking. Lawrence Krauss, a physicist, 
reaches a similar conclusion in his book A Universe from Nothing, in 
which he argues that advances in quantum cosmology show that God is 
irrelevant at best.

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