Math, Physics, and Philosophy: Linked Together

I keep seeing threads and posts about philosophy going viral, and not just on philosophy forums but also math and science forums.

Philosophy complements STEM–a lot of philosophical questions are being answered (or at least elucidated) with the help of modern math and physics.

Also, philosophy is like the liberal art’s version of category theory in that it breaks down prepositional statements into structures that are ‘building blocks’ that can be used to make generalizations and gain deeper insights. Applied math tries to solve an equation. Abstract math, like philosophy, tries to go deeper and determine which equations can or cannot be solved.

But also why the infatuation with philosophy (and to a lesser extent, religion) by practitioners of STEM (especially in computer science, math, and physics)? Aren’t philosophy and religion supposed to be opposed to ‘hard’ sciences? There is a link between religion and math/physics in that they both involve rationalism, in an epistemological sense, which is the opposite of empiricism. Math and physics requires one to rationalize that intangible math concepts are ‘real’ (Platonic realism).

Many math and physics enthusiasts understand that religion and math can coexist, unlike as we see with evolutionary and cognitive scientists Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett, who tend to be intolerant or hostile towards religion. In the sciences, the staunchest critics of religion are biologists and psychologists, both fields that involve empiricism (such as fossil evidence), not abstractions such as math and physics equations. Many math and physics enthusiasts, who may also believe in God, understand that the laws of nature only provide an incomplete picture of reality, and that there will always be unknowns. Science cannot explain everything, and it’s possible science will never be able to fully explain everything, no matter how advanced technology becomes.

Perhaps it’s incorrect for psychology enthusiasts (as we see with Scott and Slate Star Codex) to call themselves rationalists, when psychology is almost entirely empirical (such as behavioral studies, observational studies, drug response vs. placebo tests, etc.). Less Wrong is closer to being rationalist, in the philosophical sense of the word. Consider the the Monty Hall game, in which Bayes Theorem (an abstract concept) is invoked to prove that switching is optimal despite such a choice defying intuition. But an empirical approach to the Monty Hall problem is also possible by running large simulations, but the application of probability theory (rationalism) bypasses this.

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