Scientists and Philosophers … need to talk!

Tibor Molnar, Honorary Associate of the Department of Philosophy, University of Sydney

Co-presented with the Department of Philosophy

A Sydney Science Festival event for National Science Week


17 August 2017

Science used to be 'natural philosophy'; but Francis Bacon and the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries saw a parting of ways. Science became increasingly empirical – performing experiments and recording findings – while philosophy remained contemplative: pondering the principles of logic, knowledge, ethics and politics, and struggling to make sense of the human condition.

Today, both disciplines can claim significant achievements – for both new technologies and improved understanding. Science, in particular, has been a runaway success!

Yet both disciplines are now in trouble. Scientists have undermined much of philosophy, and shown that not only are there no absolute moral values, but that even our political leanings are genetically determined. And philosophers have shown that science has lost its way – describing the world in ways that even scientists cannot understand. As physicist Wolfgang Pauli famously said, some ‘scientific’ theories are “not even wrong”!

The result is unfortunate. Many scientists now consider philosophy to be largely irrelevant; while many philosophers consider science – particularly theoretical physics – to have lost its grip on reality. Exactly where, they ask, are all those ‘parallel universes’?

It’s time for scientists and philosophers to get together and have a long chat…Tibor Molnar explores some of the issues they need to chat about.


Tibor Molnar is a polymath with a wide range of interests: from physics and neuroscience to AI and philosophy. He is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Philosophy, University of Sydney, and teaches a course at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education Philosophy for Science: Making Sense of the Physical World.

Hosted by Professor Frans Verstraten, Head of the School of Psychology. Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney.

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