Scientific Conclusions Need Not Be Accurate, Justified, or Believed by their Authors

Synthese 199:8187–8203 (2021)
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Abstract

We argue that the main results of scientific papers may appropriately be published even if they are false, unjustified, and not believed to be true or justified by their author. To defend this claim we draw upon the literature studying the norms of assertion, and consider how they would apply if one attempted to hold claims made in scientific papers to their strictures, as assertions and discovery claims in scientific papers seem naturally analogous. We first use a case study of William H. Bragg’s early 20th century work in physics to demonstrate that successful science has in fact violated these norms. We then argue that features of the social epistemic arrangement of science which are necessary for its long run success require that we do not hold claims of scientific results to their standards. We end by making a suggestion about the norms that it would be appropriate to hold scientific claims to, along with an explanation of why the social epistemology of science—considered as an instance of collective inquiry—would require such apparently lax norms for claims to be put forward.

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Author Profiles

Haixin Dang
University of Leeds
Liam Kofi Bright
London School of Economics

References found in this work

Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Aboutness.Stephen Yablo - 2014 - Princeton University Press.
Against Method.Paul Feyerabend - 1975 - London: New Left Books.

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