Automated discovery systems and scientific realism

Minds and Machines 12 (1):105-117 (2002)
Abstract
In the paper I explore the relations between a relatively new and quickly expanding branch of artificial intelligence –- the automated discovery systems –- and some new views advanced in the old debate over scientific realism. I focus my attention on one such system, GELL-MANN, designed in 1990 at Wichita State University. The program's task was to analyze elementary particle data available in 1964 and formulate an hypothesis (or hypotheses) about a `hidden', more simple structure of matter, or to put it in contemporary terms –- the discovery of quarks. The central thesis of my paper is that systems like GELL-MANN not only discover (or rediscover) the hidden structure of matter, but also provide independent strong evidence in favor of scientific realism about entities involved in that structure. I make an attempt to show how an argument for scientific realism about sub-microscopic entities can be constructed that would parallel Ian Hacking's `argument from coincidence' presented with respect to microscopic objects in his famous book Representing and Intervening
Keywords discovery systems  heuristic rules  rationaly  realism  theory choice
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