Jerry and I (and many others) have reached the tentative conclusion that much of what passes for modern philosophy is a house of cards. It doesn't tell us anything. It doesn't produce knowledge, or truth.
It was a real eye-opener to hear Elliot Sober defend creationism by arguing that supernatural beings could have guided evolution by making undetectable changes in DNA [The Problem with Philosophy: Elliot Sober]. Sober is a highly respected philosopher. He doesn't believe in supernatural beings but his argument in defense of guided evolution was the subject of a lecture at the University of Chicago. Listen to the questions and discussion on the video and you'll see that a group of prominent philosophers actually take this sort of thing seriously.
Jerry and I are not the only scientists who wonder what the heck is going on in philosophy. As I pointed out a few days ago, this form of argument can just as easily be used to justify the existence of a Flying Spaghetti Monster who steals meatballs [The Flying Spaghetti Monster Steals Meatballs (What's the Purpose of Philosophy?)]. What's the point? The arguments and the logic don't tell us a thing about whether gods or the Flying Spaghetti Monster actually exist.
Methodological naturalism is at the core of science because it doesn't commit a scientist to atheism: it simply says that—since science cannot possibly investigate the supernatural—the supernatural, if it exists, cannot factor into scientific explanations of how the world works. This is not the same as saying that the supernatural doesn't exist it is simply, in a sense, to admit the limitations of science in being able to deal only with natural causes and empirical evidence. At the same time, it frees science from any close ties with religion and allows scientists to pursue their work independently of their private religious beliefs.This is obviously wrong since we routinely apply the scientific way of knowing to questions about the supernatural. Does prayer work? Is their any evidence for life after death? Has a miracle happened? Do we have a soul? Is their any evidence that evolution has a purpose?
The scientific way of knowing is quite capable of discovering something that conflicts with or violates natural causes. So far, nothing has turned up but that doesn't mean we've never tried looking. There's absolutely no evidence of the supernatural so it's reasonable to conclude, tentatively, that the supernatural doesn't exist. We also conclude that the Flying Spaghetti Monster has a very low probability of existence. That's scientific.
After a decade of reading the literature on methodological naturalism I've come to the conclusion that philosophers are just making this stuff up. We usually assume that they created this bogus limitation in order to protect religion from science but now I'm beginning to realize that it also protects philosophy from science. It means that metaphysics—whatever that is—is outside of science but squarely in the magisterium of philosophy. It means that philosophy is another way of knowing because it covers something important that's forbidden to the scientific way of knowing—or so their argument goes.
Many philosophers are fiercely protective of their way of knowing and they have little regard for those scientists who argue that the scientific way of knowing is the only way that has actually demonstrated success. This is where the accusations of "scientism" come up.
The examples above are instances of scientism, a term that sounds descriptive but is in fact only used as an insult. The term scientism encapsulates the intellectual arrogance of some scientists who think that, given enough time and especially financial resources, science will be able to answer whatever meaningful questions we wish to pose ...Oh, how I wish there was an equally insulting term to characterize the intellectual arrogance of some philosophers!
... I think a major reason for the prevalence of a scientistic attitude among scientists is the equally widespread ignorance of, even contempt for, philosophy.
The question before us is quite straightforward. Philosophers have been working on some important problems for centuries. I remember learning about them back when I was an undergraduate and "Blowin' in the Wind" was playing regularly on the radio. The big issues back then, and now, are Freedom vs Determinism, The Existence of God, Morality and Ethics, Mind and Body, and Epistemology.
Has philosophy, by itself, solved any of these problems? What kind of true knowledge has philosophy discovered? Can anyone give an example that will cause us to consider philosophy as another way of knowing?
The same discussion is going on over at Why Evolution Is True: Pigliucci decries scientism, argues that science needs philosophy, and that most of us are doing it wrong. They're not making much progress but perhaps that's just because the serious philosophers haven't yet weighed in.
Like Bob Dylan, I'm waiting for enlightenment.