I haven’t done a “Physicists say the darndest things” post in a while. People usually ask me to write one up every time a Lawrence Krauss, Sean Carroll, or Stephen Hawking (well, lately not Hawking) publishes a new “gee whiz” pop philosophy book masquerading as a pop science book. I find the genre extremely boring. It’s always the same dreary, sophomoric PBS-level stuff: We’re all just heaps of particles, but golly this really increases rather than decreases the wonder of it all, and here’s some half-baked amateur metaphysics and life lessons that even hardcore materialist philosophers would regard as fallacious and banal. The only variable is whether the crap philosophy in these $30 time wasters is coupled with clueless arrogance (cough, Krauss) or at least presented with some humility.
In Brian Greene’s case we have someone who seems a pleasant enough fellow. But his new book Until the End of Time nevertheless exhibits the usual foibles of the genre. I’ll focus here on what he says about the place of the human mind in the physical universe (the topic of chapter 5). The basic metaphysical assumption is a crude reductionism: All that really exists, we are assured, are basic particles governed by mathematical laws. Hence consciousness, free will, etc., must somehow either be reduced without remainder to these, or eliminated from our picture of reality. The problem Greene wants to solve in the chapter is to explain how this program can most plausibly be carried out.
Physics ain’t all that
There are three main difficulties with Greene’s solution to the problem. First, the solution is a non-starter, because second, he doesn’t understand the problem in the first place. But third, it doesn’t matter, because the reductionistic assumption that creates the problem isn’t true anyway….
The above comes from an Aug. 23 story in Catholic World Report.
Edward Feser, an associate professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College, has published with Ignatius Press Five Proofs of the Existence of God and By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: a Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment (co-author).