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CHAPTER FOUR PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Key Terms

Evolution: The theory that species’ genetic characteristics adapt over generations so as to be better suited for their environments. Evolutionary epistemology takes seriously the effect which evolution may have on what we consider knowledge to be, applying to concepts the same “survival of the fittest” struggle. Such thinking suggests pragmatism, rather than a strict correspondence theory of truth, may be a more legitimate theory.

Psychoanalysis: A method of analyzing psychic or emotional phenomena in which the subject is encouraged to speak freely about personal experiences. Philosophers differ regarding its status as a science: is the criterion falsifiability, say, or an overall narrative cohesiveness?

Astrology: The study of the influences of the positions of the stars and planets on human affairs and earthly events. In his Confessions, Augustine relates an interesting experiment which serves, at least to his mind, to debunk astrology: two children who were born under practically identical astrological circumstances, but radically differing socio-economic circumstances, are followed to adulthood. Unsurprisingly, the son of the slave becomes a slave, while the son of the slave owner becomes a slave owner, contrary to what astrology would predict.

Phrenology: The study of the size and shape of the human skull and their relation to mental abilities and character. Wilkie Collins, Balzac, and the Bronte sisters all include episodes involving phrenology in their most famous works.

Scientific Method: Principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge through the recognition and formulation of a question, the collection of relevant data through observation and experiment, and the testing of related hypotheses. Too strict an adherence to this method, of course, may result in charges of ‘scientism.’

Rationalism: An approach to investigation which relies upon logical deduction to reach a conclusion. Rationalism’s history is long, stretching back to Parmenides at least.

Empiricism: An approach to investigation which relies upon observation of the subject under study. Like Rationalism, Empiricism can trace its pedigree at least to the Pre-Socratics, if we can take Heraclitus’ statement about eyes and ears as best witnesses at face value.

Hypothesis: A conjecture to be tested.

Deduction: Deriving a conclusion about something specific based upon more general principles or axioms.

Experiment: A test or a trial.

Normal Science: Research based upon past, generally accepted scientific achievements.

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Paradigm: General “models” or frameworks of research from which spring coherent traditions of scientific research.

Scientific Revolution: Research or discovery that serves to make an existing scientific paradigm obsolete.

Paradigm Shift: The replacement of an existing scientific paradigm with a new one that has come about through scientific revolution.

Key Figures

Bacon, Francis (1561 to 1626): Philosopher and statesman, born in England, UK. He studied at Cambridge. He was knighted by James I in 1603. He was in turn solicitor general (1607), attorney general (1613), privy counsellor (1616), Lord Keeper (1617), and Lord Chancellor (1618). Complaints were made that he accepted bribes from suitors in his court, and he was publicly accused before his colleagues, fined, imprisoned, and banished from parliament and the court. Although soon released, and later pardoned, he never returned to public office, and he died in London, deeply in debt. His philosophy is best studied in The Advancement of Learning (1605) and Novum Organum (1620). His stress on inductive methods gave a strong impetus to subsequent scientific investigation. Bacon’s method consisted in interrogating nature (he asks us to imagine Nature ‘on the rack’), deriving correlations and demonstrating predictive ability, and moving from the particular instance to ever-more general, comprehensive laws. Necessary for the development of his ‘new engine, according to Bacon, was the extirpation of the ‘Four Idols’—---those of the tribe, of the cave, of the marketplace, and of the theatre.

Brahe, Tycho (1546 to 1601): Astronomer, born in Sweden. In 1573 he discovered important errors in the astronomical tables, and started work to rectify this by observing the stars and planets with unprecedented spatial accuracy. He rejected the Copernican theory. Kepler used Brahe's data to validate Copernicus. Brahe has achieved fame of a less erudite nature for possessing a prosthetic nose of silver or gold, his original proboscis having been forfeited in a duel. It is also reported that Brahe kept a pet elk which died in a drinking accident.

Augustus (63 B.C.E. to 14): Founder of the Roman Empire, the son of Gaius Octavius, senator and praetor, and great nephew (through his mother, Atia) of Julius Caesar. On Caesar's assassination (44 B.C.E.), he abandoned student life in Illyricum and returned to Italy where, using Caesar's money and name (he had acquired both under his will), he raised an army, defeated Antony, and extorted a wholly unconstitutional consulship from the Senate (43 B.C.E.). When Antony returned in force from Gaul later that year with Lepidus, Octavian made a deal with his former enemies, joining the so-called Second Triumvirate with them, and taking Africa, Sardinia, and Sicily as his province. A later redivision of power gave him the entire western half of the Roman world, and Antony the eastern. While Antony was distracted there by his military schemes against Parthia, and his liaison with Cleopatra, Octavian consistently undermined him at home. Matters came to a head in 31 B. C. E., and the Battle of Actium followed, Octavian emerging victorious as the sole ruler of the Roman world. Though taking the inoffensive title

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princeps ("first citizen"), he was in all but name an absolute monarch. His new name, Augustus ("exalted”), had historical and religious overtones, and was deliberately chosen to enhance his prestige. His long reign was a time of peace and reconstruction at home, sound administration and steady conquest abroad. In gratitude the Romans awarded him the title Pater Patriae ("Father of his Country") in 2 B.C.E., and on his death made him a god (divus Augustus). In Shakespeare, he is predicted to have died without truly having lived.

Calvin, John (1509 to 1564): Protestant reformer, born in France. He studied Latin at Paris, then law at Orléans, where he developed an interest in theology. In Bourges and other centres he began to preach the reformed doctrines, but was forced to flee from France to escape persecution. At Basel he issued his influential Institutes of the Christian Religion, and at Geneva was persuaded by Guillaume Farel to help with the reformation. The reformers proclaimed a Protestant Confession of Faith, under which moral severity took the place of licence. When a rebellious party, the Libertines, rose against this, Calvin and Farel were expelled from the city (1538). Calvin withdrew to Strasbourg, where he worked on New Testament criticism. In 1541 the Genevans recalled him, and he founded a theocracy which controlled almost all the city's affairs. By 1555 his authority was confirmed into an absolute supremacy. The father-figure of Reformed theology, he left a double legacy to Protestantism by systematizing its doctrine and organizing its ecclesiastical discipline. His commentaries, which embrace most of the Old and New Testaments, were collected and published in 1617. Calvin’s most distinctive doctrines, perhaps, are his insistence upon literalist reading of the Bible (a Zwinglian notion, but expanded by Calvin) and his belief in predestination.

Charlemagne (742 to 814): King of the Franks, and emperor of the West, the eldest son of Pepin the Short. He defeated the Saxons and the Lombards, fought the Arabs in Spain, and took control of most of Christian Western Europe. In 800 he was crowned head of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope Leo III. In his later years he consolidated his vast empire, building palaces and churches, and promoting Christianity, education, agriculture, the arts, manufacture, and commerce, so much so that the period has become known as the Carolingian Renaissance. His reign was an attempt to consolidate order and Christian culture among the nations of the West, but his empire did not long survive his death, for his sons lacked both his vision and authority. His secretary describes him as ‘always stately and dignified,’ six feet four inches tall, and posessed of remarkably noble features.

Confucius (551 B.C.E. to 479 B.C.E.): Chinese philosopher, born in the state of Lu. Largely self-educated, he married at 19, became a local administrator, and in 531 B.C.E. began his career as a teacher. In 501 B.C.E. he was appointed Governor of Chung-tu, then minister of works, and later minister of justice. His ideas for social reform made him popular with the people; but his enemies caused him to leave Lu, and he traveled widely, followed by many. He later edited the ancient writings, and the Confucian Analects, memorabilia compiled soon after his death, are a collection of his sayings and doings. His moral teaching stressed the importance of the traditional relations of family piety and brotherly respect, as well as the transformative effect which practitioners of these virtues will have on their society.

Einstein, Albert (1879 to 1955): Physicist born in Germany. He was an undistinguished student in Germany. He requested Swiss citizenship in 1901 and took a post with the Swiss patent office

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(1902-5). By the time he received his Ph.D. (1905), he had achieved world fame for his publications on Brownian movement of molecules, his photoelectric theory (for which he won a Nobel Prize) that light and other radiation can behave as both waves and particles, and for his revolutionary special theory of relativity, which displaces Newton’s concept of time by restricting unmediated judgments of simultaneity to a local framework.

Freud, Sigmund (1856 to 1939): Developed psychoanalytic therapy technique, born in Freiburg, Moravia (now Príbor, Czech Republic). He studied medicine at Vienna, then specialized in neurology, and later in psychopathology. Finding hypnosis inadequate, he used the method of "free association," allowing the patient to express thoughts in a state of relaxed consciousness, and interpreting the data of childhood and dream recollections. He became convinced, despite his own puritan sensibilities, of the fact of infantile sexuality, a theory which isolated him from the medical profession. In 1900 he published his major work, Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams), arguing that dreams are disguised manifestations of repressed sexual wishes (in contrast with the widely-held modern view that dreams are simply a biological manifestation of the random firing of brain neurones during a particular state of consciousness). In 1902, he was appointed to a professorship in Vienna. Out of this grew the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society (1908) and the International Psychoanalytic Association (1910).

Galileo Galilei (1564 to 1642): Astronomer and mathematician, born in Italy. He entered Pisa University as a medical student in 1581, and became professor of mathematics at Padua, where he improved the refracting telescope (1610), and was the first to use it for astronomy. His bold advocacy of the Copernican theory brought severe ecclesiastical censure. (Some argue that his real crime, in the eyes of the church, was belief in atomic theory, which posed real problems for the doctrine of transubstantiation.) He was forced to retract before the Inquisition, and was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment--though the sentence was commuted by the pope, at the request of the Duke of Tuscany. Under house arrest in Florence, he continued his research, though by 1637 he had become totally blind. The validity of his scientific work was formally recognized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1993.

Genghis Khan (1162? to 1227): Mongol conqueror, born in Temujin. He succeeded his father at 13, and struggled for many years against hostile tribes, subjugating the Naimans, conquering Tangut, and receiving the submission of the Turkish Uigurs. In 1206 he changed his name to the one by which he is now known, which translates as “universal ruler.” By his death the Mongol empire stretched from the Black Sea to the Pacific. He launched the only successful winter invasion of Russia in history.

Gore, Albert (1948 to the present): American congressman, senator, vice-president, (some would say president-elect, after the 2000 elections were disputed), activist, and winner of an Emmy, an Oscar, and the Nobel Peace Prize for calling the world’s attention to the crisis of global climate change.

Homer (850 B.C.E. to ?): Greek poet, to whom are attributed the great epics, the Iliad, the story of the siege of Troy, and the Odyssey, the tale of Odysseus' wanderings. The place of his birth is doubtful, probably a Greek colony on the coast of Asia Minor, and his date, once put as far back as 1200 B. C. E., from the style of the poems attributed to him is now thought to be much later.

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Arguments have long raged over whether his works are in fact by the same hand and there seems little doubt that the works were originally based on current ballads which were much modified and extended. Of the true Homer, nothing is positively known. The so-called Homeric hymns are certainly of a later age. A tradition among the ancients was that Homer had originally produced ten separate poems on the battle for Troy, only two of which, the Iliad and the Odyssey, survived. The themes of his works which most excite philosophical interest are probably arete (excellence or virtue) and nous (mind, or simply awareness).

Jesus Christ (? to 33): The central figure of the Christian faith, whose nature as "Son of God" and whose redemptive work are traditionally considered fundamental beliefs for Christians. The title Christ (Greek) reflects the belief that Jesus was the Messiah (the anointed one) of Jewish tradition. His ministry stressed love of neighbor over the dominant focus on laws and traditions held by the Jews of his time. After his execution at the hands of the Romans, his followers spread his message throughout the known world and turned what had been a Jewish sect into a separate religion. Kierkegaard, writing as Johannes Climacus, refers to belief in his incarnation as the sine qua non of Christian doctrine; less stringent thinkers prefer to separate the message from the messenger.

Kepler, Johannes (1571 to 1630): Astronomer born in Germany. He studied at Tübingen, and in 1593 was appointed professor of mathematics at Graz. In 1596 he commenced a correspondence with Tycho Brahe, who was then in Prague, and from 1600 worked with him, showing that planetary motions were far simpler than had been imagined. He announced his first and second laws of planetary motion in Astronomia Nova (1609, New Astronomy), which formed the groundwork of Isaac Newton's discoveries. His third law was promulgated in Harmonies of the World. He succeeded Brahe as court astronomer to Emperor Rudolf II, and in 1628 became astrologer to Albrecht Wallenstein. Kepler’s work resonates with neo-Platonic nuances (e.g., the Harmony of the Spheres).

Kuhn, Thomas (1922 to 1996): Philosopher, historian of science; born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Trained as a physicist, he became interested in the historical development of science and in 1962 published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a study of how scientific theories are formed, judged, and supplanted; its proposition that even the most "objective" scientific theories are influenced by external factors has had wide currency in many areas of contemporary thought. He taught at Harvard, the University of California: Berkeley, Princeton, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lavoisier, Antoine (1743 to 1794): Chemist, born in Paris. To finance his investigations, in 1768 he accepted the office of farmer-general of taxes, and became director of the government powder mills in 1776. In 1788 he showed that air is a mixture of gases which he called oxygen and nitrogen, thus disproving the earlier theory of phlogiston. His major work is the Traité élémentaire de chimie (1789), containing the ideas which set chemistry on its modern path. He also devised the modern method of naming chemical compounds, and was a member of the commission which devised the metric system. Politically a liberal, and despite his many reforms, he was guillotined in Paris on a contrived charge of counter-revolutionary activity. He is now recognized as the founder of modern chemistry.

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Marx, Karl (1818 to 1883): Founder of international communism, born in Trier, Germany. He studied law at Bonn and Berlin, but took up history, Hegelian philosophy, and Feuerbach's materialism. He edited a radical newspaper, and after it was suppressed he moved to Paris (1843) and Brussels (1845). There, with Engels as his closest collaborator and disciple, he reorganized the Communist League, which met in London in 1847. In 1848 he finalized the Communist Manifesto, which attacked the state as the instrument of oppression, and religion and culture as ideologies of the capitalist class. He was expelled from Brussels, and in 1849 settled in London, where he studied economics, and wrote the first volume of his major work, Das Kapital (1867, two further volumes were added in 1884 and 1894). He was a leading figure in the First International from 1864 until its demise in 1872. The last decade of his life was marked by increasing ill health. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery, London.

Newton, Isaac (1642 to 1727): Physicist and mathematician born in England, UK. He studied at Cambridge. He studied the nature of light, concluding that white light is a mixture of colors which can be separated by refraction, and devised the first reflecting telescope. He became professor of mathematics at Cambridge in 1669, where he resumed his work on gravitation, culminating in his work, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Newton was unorthodox in denying Trinitarian Christianity; he also devoted considerable effort in alchemical studies, and may in fact have suffered injury due to the chemicals he deployed in alchemical experimentation.

Pericles (495 B.C.E. to 429 B.C.E.): General and statesman, of the aristocratic Alcmaeonid family, who presided over the "Golden Age" of Athens, and was virtually its uncrowned king. Politically a radical, he helped push through the constitutional reforms that brought about full Athenian democracy. A staunch opponent of Sparta, it was his unremitting hostility to her and her allies that brought about the Peloponnesian War. Renowned for his oratory, his Funeral Speech, as recorded by Thucydides, is an impassioned apologia for Athens' democratic principles and system of government.

Planck, Max (1858 to 1947): Theoretical physicist, born in Kiel, Germany. He studied at Munich and Berlin, where he became professor of theoretical physics. His work on the law of thermodynamics and black body radiation led him to abandon classical Newtonian principles and introduce the quantum theory (1900), for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918. Several research institutes now carry his name. Planck himself admitted to difficulty in appreciating the quantum theory he helped establish.

Priestley, Joseph (1733 to 1804): Scientist, educator, Unitarian minister; born in Leeds, England. Priestley is best known as the discoverer of oxygen, although he also pioneered

research into carbonation, and was first to note the ‘restorative’ effect of green plants on depleted oxygen. While recovering from tuberculosis as a young man, Priestley taught himself German, French, and Italian and studied Chaldean, Syrian, and Arabic, as well as mathematics. In 1794, already famous as a scientist, teacher, and dissident minister, he emigrated in search of religious freedom and because his defense of the French Revolution had made him so many enemies. Settling in Pennsylvania, he became an early promoter of Unitarianism in America, founding

America’s first Unitarian church

gasses, in America he concentrated on writing his theological works, notably A General History

A pioneer in the physics of electricity and the chemistry of

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of the Christian Church. Priestley defended natural religion against Hume’s attacks, but himself criticized the central Christian tenent of the Trinity.

Ptolemy (127 to 145): Greek astronomer and geographer, who worked in the great library in Alexandria. Considered the greatest astronomer of late antiquity, his book known as Almagest ("the greatest") is the most important compendium of astronomy produced until the sixteenth century. His system, an Earth-centred universe (the Ptolemaic system), held sway until dislodged by Copernicus. He also compiled a Geographia, containing a catalogue of places with latitude and longitude, wrote on the musical scale and chronology, and constructed several maps, including a map of the world. C.B. Boyer’s A History of Mathematics quotes Ptolemy thus:

“When I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies, I no longer touch the earth with my feet; I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia, food of the gods…”

Shakespeare, William (1564? to 1616?): Playwright and poet, considered by many to be the greatest writer in history. Little is known of the writer to whose work the Shakespeare name has been applied. Modern scholars debate whether the Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon, who was apparently an illiterate merchant, actually wrote the works attributed to him; some believe the author of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and scores of other works was Francis Bacon, while some evidence points to Edward de Vere. Presumably, this speculation is prompted by views like Ben Jonson, who accused him of “small Latin and less Greek.”

Sophocles (496 B.C.E. to 406 B.C.E.): Greek tragic playwright, born in Colonus Hippius. He wrote 123 plays, of which only seven survive, all written after his victory over Aeschylus in a dramatic contest in 468 BC (his first attempt): Ajax, Electra, Women of Trachis, Philoctetes, and his three major plays Oedipus Tyrannos, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. Sophocles was also famed for his prowess at juggling, although his acting supposedly suffered due to his weak voice. He played an important part in Athenian public life, and assisted Pericles in the war against the Samians (440 BC). Legend has it that, when his children declared him no longer competent to administer his own affairs, he proved his mettle by composing Oedipus at Colonus.

The Principal Philosopher: Bacon

The Philosophy of Science ought not to be a difficult subject to teach to beginning students, despite its somewhat technical nature. All students have some familiarity at least with the products of modern science. Some of them are majoring in one or another of the sciences, and almost all of them are devotees of science fiction movies and television. (I find that references in class to Star Trek get a bigger response than any other references I make whether the class is an introduction to philosophy or an advanced graduate seminar on the Critique of Pure Reason.) I have chosen Bacon, even though he is so far in the past as to be a contemporary of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I, because he introduces us clearly and simply to the notion that science is, before all else, the amassing of observational data. The whole long story of the development of the philosophy of science can be thought of as a series of variations and reflections on that theme and objections to it.

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My pedagogical premise (and hope) is that students unthinkingly assume science to consist in theory-neutral, objective observations, which are then assembled into theories that explain natural phenomena. If students do in fact begin with this assumption, then the challenge of Kuhn and the theorists of the social dimensions of science should come as a shock and surprise to them. The end-of-chapter contemporary application--the controversy over Cold Fusion--was a rather risky choice. Between the time when the text was written, and the appearance of bound copies, there was always the chance that the issue would totally die. Fortunately (for me), there has been a new spate of reports of successful laboratory efforts to produce some sort of cold fusion, so the issue remains alive. Obviously, whenever the make-up of your class permits, you ought to invite science students to describe the experiments they do, and explain how they conceive those experiments to be related to the theories they learn. If you can get a colleague from a science department to come in and do a demonstration of a classic experiment, all the better! It might be provocative and interesting to raise the issue of astrology or Dianetics or faith healing, and try to figure out with the class what it is that makes these activities, or disciplines, or bodies of doctrine not science. Is there something in their methodology that puts them outside the circle of acceptable sciences? It turns out that it is harder than we might like to believe to explain just why astrology isn’t a science at all.

Suggested Lecture Outlines

Lecture One: Francis Bacon and the Massing of Observations

I.

The Place of Science in the Modem World

A.

The centrality of science--its products, its way of thinking--in contemporary life. A brief survey of the ways in which science shapes our everyday lives.

B.

How recently science has come to play this role. Eighteenth-century life not dramatically different from the life of Roman times. Changes in the past thirty years (your students, remember, were born yesterday, so far as their awareness of the world is concerned).

C.

The social implications of modem science: genetic engineering, nuclear energy; AIDS research, computer and information technology.

II.

The Scientific Revolution of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

A.

The dramatic change in our understanding of the world in early modem times. The Copernican Revolution. The denial that human beings are the center of the universe. The emphasis on observation of nature.

B.

Knowledge as power. The capacity to alter nature, to make it serve human interests. The role of inventions, both of scientific instruments for observation (the telescope, the microscope) and of mechanisms for increasing human power (the steam engine).

C.

The role of mathematical theories in the new science: Newton, Leibniz, Descartes.

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III.

Francis Bacon and the New Organum

A.

Bacon’s life. His place in Elizabethan England. His training in scholastic philosophy.

B.

The central idea: a never-ending assembling of objective, theory-neutral observational reports that can serve as the basis for scientific theorizing. The Tables of Presence and Absence, of Increase and Decrease.

C.

Theories as hypotheses about the underlying or hidden causes of readily observed phenomena.

D.

Bacon’s example: the definition of heat.

IV.

Modern Accounts of the relationship between theory and observation

A.

The concept of an experiment. The difference between experiments and observations.

B.

Experiments as tests of theoretical hypotheses.

Lecture Two: Thomas Kuhn and Science as a Social Institution

I.

Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions

A.

The increasing importance, in the philosophy of science, of historical studies of the development of the sciences. Kuhn’s study of the development of modem astronomy and physics.

B.

The concept of a revolution in science, as opposed to a slow, steady growth of scientific knowledge. Scientific revolutions versus normal science.

C.

The concept of a paradigm shift in science.

II.

The Implications of Kuhn’s Work

A.

There is no steadily accumulating fund of theory-neutral scientific observations of nature. What one paradigm considers a datum may not be considered as such by the next paradigm.

B.

If there is no growing base of theory-neutral data, then the notion of progress in science is undermined.

C.

The correctness of a scientific theory is, in the end, determined by its success in getting itself accepted by the community of those who work as scientists.

III.

The Hunt for the Children

A.

Scientific research as a collective social activity rather than as a lonely, individual quest for knowledge.

B.

The example of the hunt for the lost children as a model of scientific investigation.

C.

The successful scientist is not necessarily the best scientist.

D.

The allocation of scarce research dollars ought to be regulated in some way for maximum social effect.

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Goals for Students and Teacher

Primary Goals:

1. To get students thinking about the nature of science as an intellectual and social activity.

2. To get clear about the continuing debate over the relation of theory and observation in scientific explanation.

3. To present clearly the idea of scientific change as a succession of conceptual revolutions.

Secondary Goals:

1. To acquaint students with Francis Bacon.

2. To pose the issue of the scientific status of such pseudo-sciences as astrology.

Suggested Teaching Techniques

As I indicated above, this may not be a good place to begin with the videotape, assuming you are using them. The issues involved in the Cold Fusion controversy are better analyzed after you have completed the discussion of science as a social institution.

1. Begin with a classic scientific experiment--with the aid of a colleague from the sciences, and involving a dramatic classroom presentation. Use the experiment to start the discussion of the nature of science as an activity: what are its goals, what are its presuppositions, what special skills are required to be a scientist?

2. Show an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine to your students. Some of what is portrayed there is scientifically possible. Some of it is scientifically impossible. Which is which? How does one decide? In what sense, if at all, does science tell us what the world is really like?

3. Have students taking science courses describe in some detail how the courses are taught-- the role of memorization, of problem solving. Could philosophy be taught successfully that way? Why not? Could philosophy be made scientific?

4. Stage a debate on the following topic:

Propose: That any theory that gets accepted by a large enough percentage of the men and women actively working as scientists is scientifically correct, so long as it continues to enjoy universal support in the scientific community.

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Essay Questions

1. Bacon held that the proper objects of scientific inquiry were phenomena that could be detected by the unaided senses. If he were alive today, in an era of supercolliders, electron microscopes, and radio-telescopes, do you think he would change his view? Why or why not? What would Bacon take to be the objects of scientific inquiry if he were writing today?

2. Is there such a thing as "politically incorrect" science? That is, could there be a scientific fact which, no matter how clearly demonstrated or strongly confirmed, ought to be suppressed for the sole reason that it is offensive to some segment of society? In explaining your position, it might be useful to cite some view of Bacon's or Kuhn's.

3. Kuhn hoped to explain how science is actually conducted, while most other philosophers of science try to determine how a scientific search for truth ought to be conducted. If Kuhn's picture is very different from that of a philosopher of science of the latter sort, does one or the other have to be wrong? Why or why not?

4. Kuhn tells us that each time a paradigm shift occurs, there is a corresponding shift in what counts as a scientific fact. Yet it doesn't seem that the sort of "facts" Kuhn has in mind here could be what we normally think of as facts. (Otherwise, it would seem that,

before starting my car in the morning, I'd have to check the newspapers to see if there had

been a paradigm shift in the theory of internal combustion overnight sorts of things did Kuhn think of as scientific facts, then?

)

Exactly what

5. The author suggests that science might not show the sort of one-directional progress that Bacon claimed for it, comparing science to such human activities as politics, art, and religion. In your own view, is there really such a thing as scientific progress? What does this suggest about Bacon's view? About Kuhn's?

6. How does Bacon's method of inquiry differ from the scientific method you were taught in high school? Are the differences between the two important, or are we using essentially the same method today that Bacon set forth more than four hundred years ago?

7. It seems undeniable that science has discovered many important truths --planes fly, our homes are warm and well-lit, and medicine has almost doubled our life expectancy over the last hundred years. Yet Kuhn, who is obviously aware of these things, holds that science neither provides truth, nor progresses. Can this conflict between Kuhn's theory and the evidence of scientific progress be resolved? Why or why not?

8. Kuhn has given us a theory about what makes theories true. If we were to judge Kuhn's theory according to the standards he sets forth himself, how would we determine whether the theory presented in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is true?

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9. Paul Feyerabend wants to safeguard society from ideology, including scientific ideology. The story of Lysenko’s effect on Soviet agriculture provides an excellent example of the horrors of ideology run amuck. But how could someone committed to Feyerabend’s view distinguish between the pseudo-science of Lysenkoism and the considerably more successful (pragmatically speaking) “ideology” of traditional genetics? Are some ideologies “truer” than others?

10. In our text, the underdetermination thesis is considered only with regards to its place in the philosophy of science. Are there other spheres of human endeavor in which this thesis can be applied? Does it pose similar problems for ethics, say, or for questions about aesthetic judgments?

11. Al Gore considers the battle to fight global climate catastrophe an opportunity to “experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing—“ i.e., a “generational mission.” What might an analysis of Feyerabend’s views add to this discussion? Is “Global Warming” just the product of another ideology?

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