I was reminded this afternoon of an article I’d read a year ago titled “Why are so many smart people such idiots about philosophy?” By “smart people” they meant Bill Nye, but not only. The article covers Nye’s absurd, incoherent, idiotic response to a question posed by a philosophy student.
So the question. Why is Bill Nye such an idiot?
The answer is very simple. Philosophy demands that you question your own thinking and challenge your own assumptions. Philosophy takes for granted that you might be wrong about literally anything and everything. When your job is to be right all the time, as is the case with characters — “popularizers of science”– such as Nye and Tyson and Dawkins, philosophy is uncomfortable and feels useless — because you can’t be right all the time if you’re sometimes wrong, even if you only just might be wrong.
More generally, though, scientists use a set of assumptions, a philosophical system, that is already established. Their job isn’t to challenge it but to apply those assumptions, to run the sacred program of the Scientific Method, to play the Science game.
If your job is to assert the correctness of a particular worldview, if it involves assuming the correctness of that worldview, then the tools for questioning worldviews are hostile towards you. They are necessarily wielded against you.
Here’s a quote from Bernardo Kastrup that considers this problem from a slightly different angle.
Because our culture mistakenly takes technological success for evidence of a deep understanding of reality, we are all guilty, at least by omission, of allowing the neo-priesthood of science to appoint themselves arbiters of truth. This is as insane as appointing a five-year-old kid, who happens to break records playing computer games, chief architect at a major computer company. Does the kid’s game-playing prowess necessarily imply deep understanding of the underlying computer engineering? The fact that one has figured out, through expensive trial and error, how to play the game of technology does not imply any deep understanding of what’s actually going on. Our failure as a culture to truly grasp this has allowed the appointment of five-year-olds to the role of civilization’s guides.
This is how such smart people can be such idiots.