1. introduction: The 'threat' to realism from underdetermination

The appeal of scientific realism is chiefly based on the – staggering – empirical success of the theories currently accepted in science. The realist exhibits some currently accepted scientific theory (the General Theory of Relativity, say), points to its astounding empirical success (with the gravitational redshift, the precession of Mercury’s perihelion, etc) and suggests that it would be monumentally implausible to suppose that the theory could score such empirical successes and yet not reflect, at least to some good approximation, the underlying nature of reality. To hold that combination of beliefs would be, in Poincaré’s celebrated phrase (1905/1952, p. 150), “to attribute an inadmissible role to chance”.
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