New Scientist – Not Even Wrong?

This week’s New Scientist “Metaphysics Special” has this front cover:

Which carries the headline:

“How Science Answers Philosophy’s Deepest Questions.”


If they really are metaphysical philosophy questions, deep or otherwise, then they’re not going to be answered by science. That would make them science questions. Sure, some of the tools science shares non-exclusively with other rational disciplines will be useful in addressing them, but will the target audience or casual reader believe the headline or be more generous in their scepticism?

So much more honest to go with the idea that science and philosophy can work to solve mutual metaphysical problems rather than set-up science as the hero on the white charger to answer all our questions.

I already know many a philosopher turned-off by the aggressively over-reaching marketing before even opening a copy to read what may be actually being argued. Which might be a pity:

Metaphysics special: How do I know I exist?
Metaphysics special: What is consciousness?
Metaphysics special: Why is there something rather than nothing?
Metaphysics special: What is the meaning of life?
Metaphysics special: Where do good and evil come from?
Metaphysics special: Do we have free will?
Metaphysics special: What is reality made of?
Metaphysics special: Is time an illusion?
Metaphysics special: Can we ever know if God exists?

These are are clearly classic questions with a philosophical dimension, in some cases properly metaphysical questions of existence and meaning maybe before they can even be scientific questions. At least the leader article gives us hope:

Metaphysics has much to offer the study of the natural world.
The branch of philosophy known as metaphysics overlaps with modern science and the two can push the boundaries of knowledge together.

That’s the spirit. I’ll write more when I’ve digested more of the content, but why the antagonistic click-bait headline in a journal of science?

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