Talk:Philosophy of science/Archive 2

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Moved from talk:philosophy of science

On the topic of scientific accountability it would be more helpful to refer by name to real scientists or proponents of the educational campiagns mentioned rather than vaguely asserting "many scientists" are engaged in this or that.


EntmootsOfTrolls would have liked this article to be part of User:EntmootsOfTrolls/WikiProject Body, Cognition and Senses, which provides guidelines for articles on those topics, and seeks stronger cross-linkage and cross-cultural treatment of all of these topics.


The paragraph on Lakatos was at best contentious. Can anyone provide a reference that supports the claims made? Otherwise, leave it out. Banno 10:10, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

  • I don't know anything about Lakatos in particular, but this sort of theory is quite real. I don't believe it for a moment, but there are some historians and sociologists who do. They're called Social Constructionists. Isomorphic 10:19, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

But Lakatos was not one. By all means, add some material on new historicism if you wish, but let's at least attempt to make the stuff here truthful. Banno 10:22, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

My apologies, I jumped in without figuring out what was going on. A paragraph mentioning social constructionist perspective still seems appropriate though. I'll remove Lakatos' name if he's not one, or if that's debatable. Would that be ok? Isomorphic 10:27, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

So you would let the lie stand until you can find evidence it is wrong? Doesn’t he get the benefit of the doubt? Lucky he’s dead, or Wiki might be up for slander… Banno 10:38, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Maybe you misunderstood me. I suggested taking Lakatos' name out of the paragraph, and leaving it as a discussion of the overall social constructivist position, with no specific names listed. That way the entire Lakato issue is avoided, and the social constructivists are still represented. Is that ok? Isomorphic 10:43, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

OK, I’d already removed his name from the paragraph. But the paragraph remains pejorative. Who are these nasty social constructionists? What are the ideological assumptions they seek to justify? No specific names, and no specific facts. If the paragraph is not actually going to say something, should it be here? It’s not NPOV, friends… (Banno)

OK, I'll try a rewrite. Still not going to have specific names, since I don't know the history, but I think I understand the position well enough to state it in an NPOV manner. Tell me what you think of it, and edit if you wish.
Isomorphic 11:24, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

A much better job – well done. I’ve taken the liberty of making the weaker case slightly stronger, basically to be a bit more provocative in the hope that the reader will investigate the link. social construction gives a reasonable account. Since the acceptance of new scientific theories is, by definition, a social phenomenon, the stronger version shouldn’t be too controversial (famous last words?).Banno 10:54, 10 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Thanks, glad you approve. I don't really object to your edit, but let me explain why I stated the weaker position that way. That version came from some comments by a historian of science whose talk I attended a few weeks ago. I included it as a compromise position of sorts, because to most scientists social construction is an alien mindset. They would find the extreme position not only unpalatable (since to a scientist's way of thinking, science would be a waste of time if there were no objective truth to seek) but entirely absurd.
You say that the acceptance of scientific theories is by definition a social phenomenon. I agree that there's a social factor, but I don't see how this is "by definition" a social phenomenon and neither will anyone else in science. Scientists think in terms of theories, data collection, and experiments. They aren't likely to think of anything in science as being primarilly a social phenomenon. They might agree that such factors have an effect, but it wouldn't necessarilly occur to them. As a case study, in the talk I mentioned above, some of the other physics majors actually didn't comprehend what social construction was when the speaker explained it. The idea was too strange to them. It took a flurry of questions before it sank in, and then they were confused about why someone would ever believe this.
I figured that with a gap in thinking that large, it might be useful to present a middle ground. Stating only the more extreme positions is more likely to cause immediate dismissal than it is to provoke thought.
All that said, it's not that big an issue. It's ok as is, and I'm off to work on other things.  :-)
Isomorphic 08:17, 11 Dec 2003 (UTC)

social construction

Cool, Isomorphic. You make a very pertinent point.

Since we now have three different ‘levels’ of social construction, it might be worth setting them out and looking at the differences.

The “strong” social construction denies the existence of an objective world against which theories can be tested, replacing it with a social construct. The “weak” social construction, as in your post before my modification, holds that acceptance of a theory is not necessarily dependant on social factors. The “Middle” position in the present article has it that social factors play a role in the acceptance of theories.

What does it mean for a scientific theory to become “accepted”? More pointedly, who is it that does the “accepting”? Surely it must be the scientific community, which surely must be a social entity? In this sense, the “acceptance” of a theory must be, almost by definition, a social phenomenon. None of which implies that the theory does not, at least in some way, “correspond to the facts”.

If this is correct, then the “weak” version of social construction is unsustainable, since it implies that acceptance can occur without some social phenomenon also occurring. Social acts, such as peer review, repetition of experiments, and so on, are crucial to the acceptance of a theory.

Hence my changes to your post. Banno 19:38, 11 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Sure, but if this what you mean by "social construction", then absolutely everything humans talk about also is a "social construction", and then the term becomes totally meaningless. The term only has a useful meaning if it has some specific definition. (That is not my criticism alone; this is a common criticism of people who use terms this way.) The term "social construction" only has a meaningful definition if it can be used in contrast to things that are not social constructions! RK 01:47, Dec 16, 2003 (UTC)

RK, either I’ve misunderstood you, or I agree with you - I’m not sure which. The weak version of social construction would have it that Mars is not a social construct, but that theories, myths and observations of Mars are social constructs. The strong version would have it that Mars itself is a social construct (because all we really have, they might say, are the theories, myths and observations). Isn’t it worth making this distinction, if only to point out the poverty of strong social constructivism? Take care, for if you really wish to maintain that everything people talk about is a social construct, you may find yourself agreeing with strong social constructivism… Banno 19:10, 16 Dec 2003 (UTC)

If I may add a comment to RK's comment, I would note that I have said essentially the same thing in a slightly earlier post reacting to one of yours. A distinction without a difference may be true but is of no use, philosophically or otherwise. Perhaps a different mental model may help. What science does is to prune the bush of possible theories by using observations (ideally carefully designed ones) as prunign scissors. That human (or ...other...) mind(s) are involved seems tautologically true and so a distinction without a difference until we encounter Intelligent Ants or our cats start talking to us about the space time continuuum they encounter. Feline relativity might be something extraordinary.
Anyway, having pruned the bush of all possible theories (ranging from the Mummies did it, to Newtonian mechanics, to UFOs on NH highways, to Mumbo Jumbo's behind it all, ...) using some observation many theories will always be left. Some are not experimentally testable and so will always be 'available' if not usefully so, others will have yet to be tested, and still others will have been tested but not to failure. I can't take many of those left seriously, but it is in some idealistic sense a defect of resort experiment as prunig shears that no experiment can rule out all the stuff that appears to me to be nonsense. So many theories, so few experiments (and experimenters)...
Thus, in a philosophical account of what science is, the spasmodic pruning of untenable (after some experimental result or another) theories from the possible_theory bush is the critical issue, as this is the fundamental difference between science and all else. Opinion matters -- though only to the extent of reasoned understanding -- and no theory is ever true or, probably even, totally accepted. In the current news, there are some biologists/medical folk who disagree that the weight of the remaining_after_pruning theories leaves HIV as the most likely cause of AIDS. Which is adopted (by whatever reasoned, or unreasoned, process) has consequences when political positions result in limitations or exclusions on this or that treatment. If the conventional opinion is right, political backing of the HIV_does_not_cause_AIDS school will result in more death more quickly; and in large numbers too -- this is not a question which can be debated until all are gently led to conviction. As the lawyers say, time is of the essence. On the other hand, if the conventional view is wrong, much time and resources will have been wasted going down the wrong path. NO social or political construction can distinguish between the two positions (ie, theories); only one or more experiments can do so. In the field of human disease alleviation engineering, only actual science can provide guidance to a more effective course. In this instance, science has not found a universally accepted theory. And so what? That's not the point of it. The point of it is to increase the accuracy of fit between nature and our theoretical account of it; it is only observational pruning of formerly possible but no longer tenable theories that increase the quality of that fit.
It was once thought, clearly in retrospect only by the wildly misguidely optimistic or arrogant, that there was little left for science (at least the physics end of it) to do. The available theories covered just about everything. Perhaps this will come to pass someday, but even in physics, that day seems to have been rather seriously receding of late. Until that day comes, or some better way of finding theories that fit observation better than what we've got comes along, science (ie, experimental testing and rejection of failed theories) will be our best approach.
I don't see that social construction (weak, medium, or strong) accounts for much that matters in the a philosophical account of science.
Which is more than RK had to say on the topic, but perhaps he will agree with some or all (?!) of what I've said here.

Ww, hope you don’t think this rude, but do you think you could attempt to keep your posts down to under 500 words? Otherwise we will quickly find we will need to archive much of the material here. Banno 19:41, 16 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Ww, you have used phrases such as 'asymptotically approaching socially approved reliability', and 'it is the reported experience of the species which is determinative', which appear to be somewhat veiled references to social phenomenon. Yet you also appear to maintain that social phenomena do not play a part in science, and so in philosophy of science. I have been unable to see how you reconcile these apparently contradictory views. Banno 19:45, 16 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I wondered if you would pick up on that. If you reread the post you will see, I hope, that portion to be referring to ordinary day to day -- NOT scientific -- determinations. I gave an example or two of ways I behave that I have not personally experimentally tested in response to an earlier post of yours questioning reliance on experiments not personally conducted. In an earlier post I even referred to Kahneman and Tversky and their demonstrations of universal inherent biases in our 'reasoning' (which I suggest we ought not to expect to find duplicated in detail in Intelligent Ants, should we ever meet them; yet we would expect them to understand science unless such knowledge is innate within them which would raise other questions entirely) which make our uncorrected determinations (social or individual) chancy. That comment fits here; please incorporate it by reference. And I gave an example of a similarly social construct which does not lead to anything I would recognize as worthwhile -- racial / ethnic prejudice. All in contrast to the next section in which scientific -- not socially constructed -- positions are illustrated. Sorry you missed that intent.
Indeed, it was exactly the 'socially constructed' nature of those positions which I was attempting to illustrate. Social construction has no mechanism of corrective feedback to distinguish between the first sort of positiona nd the second sort. Science, within its limited purview (NB, experimentally testable theories only) does.
As for posts less than 500 words, well... I'll try. These issues are not easily compressed. The number of posts on this topic -- brief or not, including yours, is an illustration. That's why, taken together, this discussion page has been archived so frequently.

Sorry, my friend, I don’t understand what it is you are saying.Banno 02:06, 18 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I repeat my earlier offer. If you can suggest which aspect of what I've posted you don't understand, I'll try to make an attempt to clarify. A blanket misunderstanding leaves me unable to do much more than repost.

I am having difficulty in seeing why you think what you have written answers my questions. In my 13th December, I asked you what it means for a theory to be 'taken for the moment as the way things are'? You provided an answer that involved 'asymptotically approaching socially approved reliability if neither truth nor workability' with the caveat 'this is not scientific, but merely practical'. Do you wish to claim that the acceptance of a scientific theory by someone who has not tested it is not part of science? Such a position would surely be untenable, no?

So, assuming you do not hold to such a view, I'm perplexed as to what it could mean for a scientific statement that one has not personally tested to be 'taken as the way things are' without some social context. Frankly, it just appears that you are bending over backwards to avoid admitting social phenomenon into scientific method.

More recently, you say 'social construction has no mechanism of corrective feedback to distinguish between the first sort of position and the second sort' – but I can’t see where you say what the two positions are. What I have described in the article as 'weak' social construction does appear to include the possibility of corrective feedback. Banno 21:29, 19 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Banno, Sorry to have taken so long to reply; I managed to miss your post.

With limited time, no one can personally experimentally vet all theories in science. One may vet only some small subset of them. In the strictest sense, one's input in evaluating some theories fit to observation is limited to personally conducted experiments. But this is a foolish strictness. I can believe that Smith is a reliable experimenter and does not lie in reports of those experiments and so I will, as a matter of practice, include the data from them in my theory evaluations. Jones on the other hand has not been so reliable and lies like a riverboat gambler in his published reports of personally conducted experiments.

I believe, based on your posts, that you will concentrate on the 'social nature' of my relations with Smith and Jones as characteristic of science. I would disagree. My relations with S and J, whatever they are, are common to my relations to others in my role as a fashion designer. NOT characteristic of science. What is characteristic is that, whatever experimental results I decide to take seriously (and however I include them in my deliberations), I refer to them in those deliberations. In my role as a fashion designer I need take no input from any source into account. If I can convince people to go back to fashionable palm fronds in the Arctic, there is no constraint on my efforts inherent in fashion. Not so in science. It works (or rather engineering derived from its theories) works, and that's the nub.

The 'first sort of position' is those activities without a required and inherent reference to nature (eg, through experiment), and the 'second sort' is all those which do. If they do it the way science does (ie, using experiment as theory bush pruning shears), then those activities are science. Even fashion design might be scientific if a way to resort to experiment could be developed. I rate the chances as essentially zero in any rational world, but ...

Your weak social construction seems to me to be tautological (it's humans doing this stuff, after all, and they can't be expected to act like anything else; we are not Mr Spocks (nor Intelligent Ants either)), and to entirely neglect the characteristic aspect of science, namely reliance on experimental test, and ultimately, nothing other than experimental vetting, to prune out inadequate theories.

Hope this helps.


You appear to think that science being a social enterprise and being reliant on experiment are mutually exclusive. Why? Banno 10:50, 30 Dec 2003 (UTC)
Not quite. Science, in my view, is a social enterprise. It is done by humans (at least so far, not counting the cats who are doing something else altogether) and everything those creatures do is -- tautologically as far as I can see -- a social matter. This is a distinction without a difference and not particularly useful, nor interesting. What _is_ significant is that, unlike other social enterprises, the 'standards of performance' for science do not rest on the social nature of what humans doing science in association with others do. Science is, I believe, unique amongst human activities in that it relies on such an external standard.
It simply doesn't matter what social arrangement might exist or be created or be enforced to support, eg, spontanteous generation of mice or maggots or bacteria. Nor what social trends (politics, religion, economic, academic, folk, ...) support or oppose that position. It turns out to be wrong -- by an external standard, Experimental observation. That it took something like 200 years for most people concerned to come around after Redi's experiments, and 100 some after Spallanzani's, and rather less after Pasteur's is interesting -- and perhaps worthy of study -- but is not science and changes nothing of importance. It is merely the workings of what Kuhn pointed out (and in some sense Planck well before him) -- the sociology of science as practiced by humans. Presumably others (eg, my notional Intelligent Ants of some posts ago) would have a different sociology.
I believe that it is one (if not the primary) of the tasks of any philosophy of science to account for that difference, for it is a distinction which matters. To stress that science -- being, more or less, what scientists do -- is a social construction simply evades that task. To do so simply stresses what I think is best called a distinction without a difference at most, and when insisting that science is no different than say 'architecture' or 'the history of the Incas' or 'the deconstruction of literary texts', is plainly useless and furthermore, wrong.
There is something different about science. It is, uniquely, so psychologically/socially/politically/economically important that many who have no particular interest in it or any aspect of it, per se, are interested in the political and social status that has been accorded it (a social phenomenon) as a result of that difference. Thus we have 'history', 'sociology', 'non-experimental psychology', ... claiming to be sciences and attempting to act and sound like sciences. Or some philosophers explaining how there isn't anything special about it after all. It's all an illusion or an opression produced by <pick a player>.
In an earlier era Marx, among many others, were concerned to understand how society works 'scientifically'. He, and they, developed what they claimed, and perhaps even believed, 'scientific' accounts of history and its inevitable laws. Many of them mutually exclusive. To the extent that anyone looked at what was actually happening, none of those laws matched reality at all well. For instance, Communist Revolution happened not among the industrial working class (in say the UK) as Marx' laws claimed they inevitably would, but among peasant societies. And may very well have happened for reasons having little to do with any law of historical developement discovered by Marx. Exceptionally gifted political manipulators like Lenin and Trotsky or Mao, for instance; combined with particularly inept opposition like Nicholas or the Chinese warlords. Their attempts were a sort of scientism, and however useful/useless/destructive/advanced/appalling/inspiring/... were not science for no one was then was (or has since been) able to credibly propose a way to experimentally test any of them or any aspect of them. Much less carry out such an experiment.
Again, I hope this helps. Sorry it took so many words.

If I understand, you say science is a social enterprise, but since this observation does not serve to differentiate science from other social enterprises, it is irrelevant. You contend that the science’s 'standards of performance' are in some way external to these social aspects. You also contend that it is experimental testing that distinguishes science from non-science.

The implication is that experimental testing is not a social enterprise.

What reason do you have for thinking that experiments are not as embedded in culture and theory as any other part of science? Observations are statements, and as such involve language, and surely are therefore social? The only way I can see to maintain your position is to ignore the psychology and philosophy of perception.

In essence you attempt to distinguish science from non-science by juxtaposing the empirical base and the social enterprise; this fails because the distinction cannot be maintained. The empirical base is a part of the social enterprise.

Kuhn and Feyerabend pointed to similar failures in the methodological approaches to the demarcation problem. No method is sufficient to justify, or even explain, scientific progress.

Note, please, that this does not imply that observation is nothing more than a social construct. Experiments can still be used to decide between competing theories, but there are no hard, rational rules on which that decision can be based, only the socially guided choices of individuals. These choices are as much a part of the 'scientific method' as falsification or induction.

Sadly, this conversation, although interesting, is not directly relevant to the article. Wiki is not a discussion forum and although I’ve enjoyed playing Socrates, I think it’s time we finished the discussion, in order to keep these pages free for comment directly relevant to the article. Or perhaps moved it to another forum - can you suggest one? Banno 22:12, 1 Jan 2004 (UTC)

The two criticisms of Falsification previously listed are curious. I would be interested to see a reference to a critique of falsification based on denying the excluded middle. Not the least because a lot more than just falsification relies on this principle. The second comes close to Kuhn, but does not quite get there. Better to leave Kuhn to a different section Banno 10:30, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)

There is a passage on the weak social constructivism I don't understand:

The crucial issue for this account is justifying this correspondence. It is important, therefore, to consider how scientific statements are justified.

Does it mean that it is difficult to justify this correspondence? If so, then why? Or does it mean that justifying this correspondence is interesting for the proponents of this approach? If so, then why?

For whom it is important to consider how scientific statements are justified? For "them" or for "us"? Andres 10:32, 16 Jan 2004 (UTC)

The philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy which deals with the study of science (in the sense of "natural science"). Must it be "The philosophy of science" rather than just "Philosophy of science"? Why should philosophy of science be restricted to natural science? Is there some other field known as "philosophy of social science"? JWSchmidt 21:31, 13 Apr 2004 (UTC)

The philosophy of science includes the philosophy of ALL science including the philosophy of social science (an unwritten article). The intro needs fixing...currently it is biased toward the philosophy of natural science when the philosophy of science is actually much broader. B 22:02, Apr 13, 2004 (UTC)
JWS and BoNo, I'll stick my head up, risking snipers, and try to give an answer. 'Science' is used to mean many things, and so has no meaning in some sense; philosophy of science accordingly can be philosophy about any of those many things and also is a big terminological mess. I'll simply finesse the terminological problems by acknowledging them and move on. There, that was easy, wasn't it?
I would point out that the experimental sciences (eg, physics, chemistry, experimental biology, meteorology, ...) and the observational sciences (eg, astronomy (some of which is physics), planetary science (some of which is also physics, some chemistry, some meteorology, ...), ...) are fundamentally different than such things as history, descriptive biology, some parts of psychology, ... In the one group it is clearly possible to directly test theories about what's going on by conducting an experiment, and in the second (sometimes) by indirect test by experiment, and (also sometimes) still more indirectly, by 'unplanned' experiment observing events elsewhere. In the last group, experimental test is not possible.
I can conduct the Michaelson-Morley experiment again any time I want to (assuming the funding, of course) and so can anyone else (likewise modulo funding). Observationally, I or anyone else can watch for novae and try to indirectly test some theory about them. But no one can ever rerun the Middle Ages to test some theory about why the Renaissance developed where and when it did.
This boundary between the natures of experimentally testable stuff and nonexperimentally testable stuff is pretty clear. Though some deny there is a boundary at all; their reasoning is not persuasive to a good many folks. And so we have on the one hand a philosophy of experiment and its connection to understanding, to theories, and so on. And on the other hand, we have a philosophy of opinion (eg, you think Marx' understanding of history is better than Adam Smith's, but both are loony according to Carlyle, and theologians pretty unanimously think all three (and you too) have missed the boat by wide margins). In the first philosophy, my theory that gravitation operates by a inverse 4th power law will be simply dismissed by any and every experiment showing producing results which are impossible for a 4th power law. (ie, Newton was right!, it's an inverse 2nd power law). And my theory will be of no further consequence to any thinking observer.
In the second philosophy, Carlyle's theory that individuals determine all not only can't be disproved in any meaningful sense, but even if it goes out of 'style' amongst those who study history, it can come back. Nothing can quite ever be discarded in such disciplines. Thucycides approach to the causes of events is still a live issue; the idea that light things fall more slowly than heavy things is deader than the dodo. This is why natural science (the first philosophy sort) isn't too preoccupied by its own developmental history, while disciplines of the second philosophy type are.
Does this help answer either query? I'm going to put my head down again real quickly....
ww 15:40, 14 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Thought I might point out that you can’t re-run the big bang or the evolution of birds. Does this mean that they are not scientific? Also, your inverse 4th power law is less like Carlyle’s theory and more like my theory that history is determined by the beating of butterfly wings. Banno 18:50, Apr 14, 2004 (UTC)
Banno, True you can't rerun BB or bird evolution, and thus my distinction between experimental sciences and observational sciences. No possible experiment can disprove your butterfly theory about history, while any of many can (and have) so treated my inverse 4th power law. The butterfly theory is, as nearly as I can see, just on a par with Carlyle's about the causes of historical events. Did I miss something? ww 16:45, 15 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Apparently, Ww. One of the principle results of Philosophy of science is that it is simply not possible to disprove any theory. With suitable ad-hoc additions, your theory can be made to correspond to the facts. It is presently the case that method is insufficient to differentiate science from other activities.
Coming back to the point in hand, if science includes the social sciences, why not philosophy of science? Banno 21:17, Apr 15, 2004 (UTC)
Banno, As has long since become clear, I do not agree that it is not possible to disprove any theory. At least for experimentally accessible theories. If you think that philosophy of science has demonstrated that ('a principle result'), then as I have suggested in the past, we two have a serious disconnect. And I would suggest that whoever reached that principle result, or who thinks it's a principle result, is in error. As for observational sciences (in the distinction I made above) the situatioin is more difficult, since intentional designed esperiments are impossible. I would agree that no theory can be disproved in other cases (eg, history, your butterflies, much of psychology, politics, fashion design, ...). And I disagree that it is presently the case that method is insufficient to distinguish...
I do not think that it is appropriate to state as certainty, as you do and have, that the (more or less) Popperian/Peirceian position is 'simply' untenable, without merit, is the case that it is false, and so on. I do not believe that 1) it is that simple, or 2) the arguments against it (from the various authorities you cite) are sufficient to demolish. I have been listening to assorted posts on this point (mostly from you in recent months), and participating in dialogue (mostly with you) on this point, and have yet to hear anything that is compelling. Much that is essentially scholasticism, lots of authoritativly phrased statements of your position, and so on, but nothing which causes a change in reasoning. You have suggested that any further discussion with me is pointless on at least one occasion, but this is not very compelling arguement either. There are thus, in my view, persistent blocks between us, as it appears to me that there is little actual meeting of minds in discussion, much less progress in any direction.
Let me suggest two accounts which may provide some grounds for thought. The first is an account of the discovery of radioactivity by Bequerel and others (by A S Romer, title escapes me, but it is available in a Dover edition) and Bad Science (author escapes me), an account of the furor surrounding cold fusion. Sorry about the bibliographic lacunae. Neither has a theoretical axe to grind in the philosophical sense as both are essentially journalism, but both recount the actions, reasoning, and opinions of multiple scientists actually conducting science. They constitute windows of a sort into the scientific process 'as she is actually conducted'. They raise the, at least for me, critical question, what makes science different from other stuff that we humans do? I think they also provide an inductive (sorry about that, Hume) case for believing that it is the way science proceeds -- the scientific method -- which is the distinguishing mark and which can be seen both positively and negatively in both accounts. Thus an answer to the question why is science special? And, I personally thing, an answer to the question why does science work?
On your second para. I went to some trouble to avoid using the word science in my longish post above, precisely to avoid merely terminological conundrums of the type you present here. I would disagree that the social sciences are sciences, but given the multiple meanings the word science has acreted in ordinary usage, and in particular the discussions of those who wish to been seen as scientific, I think there can be no practical settlement of your puzzle. ww 14:19, 16 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Thanks for the reply Ww. Perhaps as the philosophical sands shift some way will be found around the problems posed by Quine and others. I know of none at present, no one else has presented any, and it is fitting that the encyclopaedia reports that this is the case. If, however, I have overstated the case in any of the articles, please correct my error.
I have great sympathy for the idea that science is somehow special. However, it appears that there is now way of expressing this in terms of a method. Perhaps there are other ways to express the difference. Banno 21:47, Apr 16, 2004 (UTC)

ideology vs idea

Terms are only pejorative in context. The context in which "ideology" is used to characterize the -isms it is not pejorative and more precisely characterizes the complexity of the -isms than does "idea". B 21:07, Apr 14, 2004 (UTC)

Good to see you back, B. I disagree, of course, and think that "ideology" implies a deprecation of the subject. but if you want to revert, I won't object. Banno 21:16, Apr 14, 2004 (UTC)

This was previously on scientific philosophy, its largely nonsense, but has one point that may need incorporating. Duncharris 16:22, Apr 29, 2004 (UTC)

Scientific theories which are believed to be unprovable in laboratory experiments are called scientific philosophy. Mostly by scientists not agreeing with them. A prominent example of this is the String Theory which is hoped to become a theory of everything but remains unproven.
The difference between scientific philosophy and a hypothesis is, that a hypothesis should be falsifiable. By its nature of being unprovable this is not the case for scientific philosophy.

scientific realism

I have edited the separate page on scientific realism to separate scientific realism from naive realism, which I think can be easily shown to be different. I am recitent to edit this main page though without some comment.

The only difficulty now is that we have two articles – scientific realism and naive empiricism – that appear to treat the same topic. Banno 23:15, Jul 13, 2004 (UTC)

Analysis and reductionism

Once again these two had become confused. They are quite distinct concepts. I’ve reverted to an earlier version of this section, with a few additions. Banno 23:41, Jul 13, 2004 (UTC)


Once again, the law of excluded middle has intruded into this section. I repeat, I would be interested to see a reference to a critique of falsification based on denying the excluded middle. Not the least because a lot more than just falsification relies on this principle. Nor does this argument appear in falsifiability, the main article on the topic. Banno 00:08, Jul 14, 2004 (UTC)

Whose Razor?

"Ockhegm or several other spellings" -- I've seen several spellings of Ockham's name, true. But this one is new to me. Are we sure the "g" isn't just a typo? --Christofurio 18:38, Mar 8, 2005 (UTC)

I've never seen it before, either - perhaps he was one of the lost ring-bearers...yes, my precious! Banno 19:39, Mar 11, 2005 (UTC)
Only Occam and Ockham (the latter preferred in both) are in the Encyc of Phil and the OED. Personally, I would consider the OED to be authoritative and suggest that this other one is a mistake, a prank, or so uncommon as to be more confusing than helpful.icut4u

Pittsburgh HPS

I removed the link to the History and Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Pittsburgh from the links section. I really don't care if this article contains links to departments that study philosophy of science, but I thought if it did the list ought to be more complete (i.e. more than one program). If someone is interested in composing a more complete list and putting them back into the article, a good place to start might be here. --Kzollman 23:57, Apr 30, 2005 (UTC)