This paper surveys three controversial new directions in research about the nature of science and briefly summarizes both the intellectual and sociological impact of this work. A bibliographic introduction to the major literature is provided and some fruitful directions for future research are proposed. Philosophers of science are also exhorted to perform 'community service' by correcting misunderstandings of the methods of science fostered by these new approaches.
Protagonists in the so-called Science Wars differ most markedly in their views about the role of values in science and what makes science valuable. Scientists and philosophers of science have traditionally considered the principal aims of science to be explanation and application. Only cognitive values should influence what is taken to be explanatory. Social and political values affect the priority assigned to various scientific problems and the ways in which scientific results are applied. Ethical considerations may be brought to bear (...) on the treatment of human and animal subjects, and the manner in which scientific results are communicated. Recent critiques of science allege that the content of scientific explanations reflects the dominant ideology and interests of scientists and their patrons. Instead of calling for more value neutrality, some now urge that science take as a principal aim the emancipation of oppressed subcultures. Not only should progressive political values be allowed to set the problems attempted, they also should be used to constrain the types of answers which are pursued. Since scientific knowledge is constructed by us, we should take responsibility for its content. This paper argues that the project of Emancipationist science is impractical and self-defeating. There is good reason to believe that there would be unresolvable political disputes concerning which kinds of scientific theories are truly emancipiatory. Furthermore, just as placebos cease to work when recognized as such, so would a science known to be constrained by political considerations lose its special epistemic authority. (shrink)
Cultural critics say that 'science is politics by other means,' arguing that the results of scientific inquiry are profoundly shaped by the ideological agendas of powerful elites. Physicist Alan Sokal recently poked fun at these claims, touching off a still-unabated torrent of heated discussion. This hard-hitting collection picks up where Sokal left off, offering crisp, detailed critiques of case studies presented by cultural critics as evidence that scientific results tell us more about social context than they do about the natural (...) world. Comprising new essays by distinguished scholars of history, philosophy, and science , this book raises a lively debate to a new level of seriousness. (shrink)
In his Novum Organum, Francis Bacon presented a method of scientific inquiry that he hoped would root out "the idols and false notions which are now in possession of the human understanding" (Aphorism XXXVIII). Bacon argued that these sources of systematic delusion would continue to cause trouble "unless men, being forewarned of the danger, fortify themselves as far as may be against their assaults" (Ibid.). As the founders of the Royal Society began to design an institutional base for Bacon's dream (...) of a Great Instauration of the Sciences, they emphasized the importance of excluding discussions of politics, religion and what we today would call ideology from the conduct of the professional affairs of science. (shrink)
Popper has provided a model for the scientific explanation of human actions and a metaphysical theory of man which can guide scientific research. In this paper I discuss the problems of the empirical content and nomicity of the Rationality Principle and extend the method of situational analysis to the problem of explaining beliefs. The domain of applicability of the Rationality Principle is bounded on one side by cases in which behavior is determined by processes which can not be influenced by (...) criticism and on the other side by the phenomenon of substantive creativity. However, a large part of human activity lies within its scope. (shrink)
Feminist proposals for reforming scientific method often ask that political evaluations be introduced into the context of justification. How might this work in practice? Fausto‐Sterling's alternative conceptualization of biological sex is analyzed and criticized. We then use this case study to comment on recent work on the role of social values in science by Longino and Kitcher.
A new PhD slated to teach a beginning undergraduate course on scientific reasoning recently asked me to recommend topics. I launched into a description of my “baby-Popper-plus-statistics” class – give them enough deductive logic to understand the Duhemian problem, do the Galileo case study, use the notion of severe test to introduce a bit of probability theory, then segue to the problem of testing statistical hypotheses…. My interlocutor was looking impatient. “But I’m a strong adherent of the Semantic Conception of (...) theories,” he said. “I can’t teach all that stuff about trying to falsify bold conjectures.” This was not a moment for proselytizing, so I loaned him a copy of Giere’s textbook, which is based on the Semantic Conception, and sent him happily on his way. However, this episode raises an interesting question, one that takes on some urgency as the Semantic Conception of scientific theories (SC) seems well on its way to becoming the new received view: What accounts of scientific method, confirmation and explanation does the SC support? (shrink)
Over the past decade participants in these annual conferences have engaged in a thorough-going analysis of the relationships between science and culture, with special emphasis on the religious components of culture. Today I will focus on a new chapter in the long history of interactions between science and society at large. I want to analyze the antagonistic relations that have developed between science and the complex of ideas and values that can loosely be labelled as “multiculturalism”.
Logic is the systematic study of patterns of correct inference. The first treatise on logic is Aristotle's Prior Analytics , written around 350 B.C. and there are remarkable similarities between the way he presented his theory of valid arguments and the way it is still taught today. He analyzes the form of various inferences and then illustrates them with concrete examples. He begins with very simple cases.
When Renat and I were preparing for this session we noticed the following irony: Although each of us is dubious about the fruitfulness of trying to explain the development of science in terms of the local sociopolitical scene, we each agreed that when it comes to understanding the development of philosophy of science in the last few decades, then the sorts of factors focused on by “new age” approaches to science studies actually play a major role!
This chapter reviews the attempts of sociologists of science such as Parsons and Merton, and philosophers of science such as Kuhn, Lakatos, and Popper, to characterize the norms that guide the scientific community. In addition to positivist values such as logical coherence and empirical adequacy, scientists place a great deal of emphasis on heuristic power, conceptual simplicity, mathematical tractability, and explanatory depth. Popper’s view of science as a problem-solving activity marked by both cooperation and critical debate serves as a good (...) reminder of the qualities that should be encouraged in public deliberations. (shrink)
Postmodernist proposals for transforming science education would not only emphasize connections between science and society but also radically alter our conceptions of the value of experimentation and disinterested inquiry. I propose alternative loci for the study of science and society issues and argue for a less utilitarian vision of science literacy.
This paper first argues that evolutionary models of conceptual development which are patterned on Darwinian selection are unlikely to solve the demarcation problem. The persistence of myths shows that in most social environments unfalsifiable ideas are more likely to survive than ones which can be subjected to empirical scrutiny. I then analyze Hull's claims about how the credit system operates in science and conclude with him that it can perform a surprising variety of functions. However I argue that the credit (...) system must be constantly tempered by internalized norms which encapsulate the traditional ultimate aims of science. (shrink)
Since philosophers of science have shown that discoveries cannot be predicted, how can historians of science explain them? The concept of discovery is explicated and what is required in order to provide a covering law explanation of past scientific discoveries is analyzed. The account relies on Hempel's model of genetic explanation, Popper's situational logic and Salmon's theory of statistical relevance. The Verstehen approach also plays an important role.
Janet Kourany argues that philosophers of science should place more emphasis on the moral and political aspects of scientific research. As a possible site for philosophical intervention she discusses professional codes of ethics. James Brown describes various systemic problems in pharmaceutical research and proposes that socializing medical research is the best way to remedy the situation. I criticize each of their examples, but concur with many overall aspects of their expanded agenda for philosophy of science. †To contact the author, please (...) write to: Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
This paper deals with two questions. First, if all scientists were perfect Popperians, how much influence could their background values and experiences have? It is argued that background can play a role in problem choice and in the constructing and testing of hypotheses. Second, do the ideals of feminism suggest the need for a new methodology and epistemology for science? In answering this question, Harding's paper in this volume is discussed.
This paper points out the vagueness and methodological naivete of current anti-normative studies of science. The Tversky-Kahneman paradigm catalogues common 'mistakes' in statistical reasoning, but fails to describe and explain people's embarrassment when these 'mistakes' are pointed out to them. A comprehensive naturalistic account of science should not limit itself to the quick-and-dirty aspects of scientific practice. The semantic view of theories is faulted for failing to account for the processes of prediction and explanation. I also argue against Baltas' examples (...) of ideological assumptions which are purported to be impossible to criticize during certain historical periods. (shrink)