But in the midst of all this, we have lost sight of what physics was supposed to provide an explanation for in the first place. So now specialists like Hawkings will postulate mathematically-expressed theories like 'M Theory' which only he and a few mathematical specialists can even understand. And yet this is what 'philosophy' is supposed to have 'not kept up with'.
There's often a sense in the academy of a need to determine how reality really is
and coming up with testable models to explore it, but then quite often the issue of function
is overlooked. Materialist science is good for investigating the physical world, but not other areas of reality that we experience (but then the lived experience of non-physical things is supposedly reducible to complex bio-chemical processes in the brain). You don't use a screwdriver for a hammer's work. That's a simple even juvenile statement to make, but it often gets overlooked.
Complex mathematical theories are good for some things, but not everything. It probably won't work well when someone is trying to unravel some deep existential question in their mind. But again, many members of the academy would reduce those experiences to material processes, which are then dissolved into even more complex physical processes. Reality, they presume, is reducible to various stratified layers. The material trumps the mental. The physical trumps the material. The quantum trumps the physical. Any attempt to offer an alternative model, like giving precedence to language instead of mathematics as many ancient Indians did, would be met with laughter.
There is a columnist for Scientific American by the name of John Horgan who wrote a controversial book in the 90's on just this 'diminishing returns' idea called The End of Science - Facing the Limits of Science in the Twilight of the Scientific Age. This sparked a lot of controversy and many angry rebukes, but I think, 15 years after it was published, his basic idea still stands up pretty well.
Joseph Tainter in the 80s wrote his Collapse of Complex Societies
and he pointed out the declining number of patents issued per X number of scientists over the previous number of decades. His argument was that increased complexity does not actually produce increased yields after a certain point, but in fact the law of diminishing returns comes into effect. He noted how increases in average longevity become more and more energy intensive to ensure, whereas at the beginning investing a bit of energy in hygiene, sanitation and basic medical care increases average life expectancy considerably. Even the most comfortable and long-lived nations in the world (Japan, Canada, etc.) have limits to how much they can get out of the most advanced medical research.
But that's how ecology works, too. There are limits to everything given natural laws.
Anyway, that said, I also want to add that materialism has been extraordinarily creative in some ways, and has done things that no other cultural tradition could have possibly done. And secondly, I don't believe that the mainstream of Western philosophy is actually 'scientific materialism', but much nearer to Pythagoras and Plato. And their ideas certainly ain't dead.
Sure, our civilization decided on materialist science and went off from there. The Romans decided to pursue the limits of logic. The ancient Indians the limits of grammar.
On the other hand, our science and its complexity is largely indebted to fossil fuels which enabled the requisite social complexity required to produce so much knowledge and ways of storing and reproducing it. Increased (usable) energy usually leads to increased complexity in a given community (in ecology it works like this too).
If it wasn't for the industrial revolution, science would have progressed much much slower and might have remained largely within the realm of backyard enthusiasts like Darwin. It was only after a certain point, maybe around WWI, when science became useful enough for it to be actively weaponized or employed for commercial purposes. Before that a lot of innovation was done by technicians and engineers who just knew what worked. I mean a Man-of-War was an incredibly complex vessel, but the shipbuilders probably didn't understand the physics of buoyancy or the organic properties of oak. They just knew from experience what worked and how to improve things.