We go around and around on this topic, and right now I’m just looking for examples of how philosophy—not philosophy broadly construed as “people thinking”, but more or less the academic discipline of philosophy—has helped science.
Now I know that philosophers can correct some bad arguments of scientists, and, if educated in science, can make critiques every bit as good as professional scientists. I’m thinking, for example, of Philip Kitcher’s book on sociobiology, Vaulting Ambition, and Rob Pennock’s wonderful critique of Intelligent Design, Tower of Babel. Those are both science-friendly philosophers, and that kind of work, which infuses scientific thinking with rigor thinking, as well as sweeping away the dross, count as a definite contribution to science.
But I’m hard pressed to think of many such examples (Dennett’s Consciousness Explained is another), and almost none in which a positive advance in science was prompted, or only made possible, by philosophy. This is not a dissing of philosophy (after all, Massimo Pigluicci likes to repeatedly point out my lack of philosophical street cred), but may simply reflect my own ignorance. If you think there is no contribution of philosophy to science, you can explain why, but try to avoid simple statements of negativity. That adds nothing to the discussion.
Now I’m more certain that philosophy has helped secularism and atheism. There are many examples, beginning with the Euthyphro Argument, which dispels the notion that morality must come from God’s dictates, and going through the analyses of people like Hume, Walter Kaufmann, and Herman Philipse, not to mention the work of young whippersnappers like Yonatan Fishman and Maartin Boudry. But we’re talking about science here. In what ways would science be less advanced without the infusion of ideas from professional philosophers?
As always, tangible examples and stories will be much more convincing than nebulous and generalized discussion.