3.4.3 Why Science Needs Metaphysics


“Science can’t tell us whether science explains everything.” This line echoes the critique that al-Ghazali leveled against philosophy, which was that philosophy can’t draw conclusions in metaphysics that it claims to arrive at through pure reason. Just like there are limits to reason, there are limits to science. Similarly, this article argues that “scientists are reluctant to admit that the arguments they put forward are philosophical and metaphysical.” Do you agree?

Read: Why Science Needs Metaphysics // Nautilus

Guiding Questions:

  1. What happens when scientific theories can’t be proven by “any possible observer in our universe”? Are they still grounded in empirical observations of reality, or do they enter the realm of pure reason, according to the author?
  2. What does the author mean by the phrase “God’s eye view,” and how does it relate to the concerns with objectivity he discusses in the article?
  3. The author suggests that science cannot provide us with the certainty we desire from it because it cannot provide an empirical explanation for its claims. This is why we need metaphysics. Do you think that the need for metaphysics suggests that theology might be important to put into conversation with science? Why or why not?
  4. Do you think science’s need to ground itself in something external to its practice, i.e.. metaphysics, endangers the authoritative status of science? Explain.
  5. Do think theological discourse shares the same problem that science does, i.e. that it cannot ground its claims about the world without presupposing some claims as self-evident?

Thumbnail: A red sunset near Swifts Creek, Australia. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Fir0002. CC BY-SA 3.0.