Letters: Limit reductionism, not science

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The Independent Online
YOUR CORRESPONDENTS are as amiss about the philosophy of science as Lewis Wolpert who, misled by academically moribund examples, has convinced himself it is simply hot air.

Professor Wolpert's view that the philosophy of science has "contributed nothing to the understanding of science this century" not only forgets its original, crucial role in clarifying science's methodology, but it doesn't know that philosophy's cutting-edge has shifted its focus to the pivotal issue of the relation of science to social science and the humanities: of facts to values (and nature to culture).

The way his naive and reductionist kind of philosophical "realism" bridges mind and world promotes scientism and moral irrationalism; divests science of reflexivity; and excludes art and the humanities from the critical (philosophically astute) standards of reason and analysis for assessing and developing them.

Wolpert should ask himself what's the good of science if we destroy ourselves for want of social, ethical and ideological understanding. Ethics are the scientist's responsibility too.


Kensington & Chelsea College, London SW10