Thursday, December 4, 2014

555: How to position Science?

Kuhn’s paradigma doctrines have generally been interpreted so as to give rise to relativism, the theory that there are no truths, 
or at least nothing can be asserted to be true independent of some points of view, and that disagreements between points of view are irreconcilable. 
The result of course is to deprive science of a position of strength from which it can defend its findings as more well justified than those of pseudo-science.
Of course, there are objections against this view. There are nowadays two approaches. The first one is called Realisme. Truth realism and Entity realism.
The realist argues that scientists ought to seek to formulate true theories that depict the structure of the universe and 
that the record of progress indicates that the universe has a structure largely independent of human theorizing and 
that our theories have provided an increasingly more accurate picture of that structure.
Hilary Putnam suggested in 1978 that unless one adopts a realist interpretation, the increasing predictive success achieved within the history of science would be a “miracle”.
Non-realists, by contrast, seek to uncouple the notions of predictive success and truth. Even Ptolemaic heliocentric planetary models were able to predict positions of planets in the sky.
And another question is what is meant by expressions like “approximate truth” or “progress toward truth”. 
No one has been able even to say what it would mean to be ‘closer to the truth’, let alone to offer criteria for determining how we could assess such proximity.
The “convergence-upon-truth” thesis may be unconvincing. However, there are other ways to defend realism. .
In particular, one may argue that the entities posited by certain scientific theories do indeed exist.
We can claim that there exist observable entities like  Venus, trees, the Atlantic ocean. 
We can extend our human senses with microscopes and the like and observe objects not registered by our bare senses.
Of course the conclusion that such entities exist is a conclusion based on theoretical considerations that pertain to the operation of scientific instruments.
This morning I read in my  newspaper that CERN had discovered again two new particles, which, however, .
if real, can not become phenomena for human observers, however well equipped with devices to amplify and extend the senses, qwarks, higgs particles, neutrinos…..
One alternative to scientific realism has long attracted some philosophers and scientists. It bears the title “instrumentalism”. 
This label names the view that scientific theories are useful instruments, heuristic devices, tools we employ for organizing our experience, but not literal claims about it that are either true or false.
It is worth noting that the history of the physical sciences from Newton onward shows a cyclical pattern of succession between realism and instrumentalism among scientists themselves. 
The realism of the seventeenth century, the period in which mechanism and atomism held sway, was succeeded in the eighteenth century by the ascendancy of instrumentalist approaches to science, 
motivated in part by the convenient way with which instrumentalism dealt with Newton’s mysterious force of gravity. 
By treating his theory of gravity as merely a useful instrument for calculating the motion of bodies, it could ignore the question of what gravity really is. 
By the nineteenth century, with advances in atomic chemistry, electricity and magnetism, the postulation of unobservable entities returned to favor among scientists.
 But then it again became unfashionable in the early twentieth century as problems for the realist’s interpretation of quantum mechanics as a literally true description of the world began to mount.
As you see, there is no clear answer to the question what science really is and in what sense it might be “right”. 
As gradually getting closer to the truth, as ever improving instruments or as paradigms, adhered by scientific communities?
Thank you …. the floor is yours … ^_^

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, John Losee (2001)

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, T. Kuhn (1962)

Philosophy of Science - A contemporary introduction, Alex Rosenberg (2005)

The Discussion

[13:18] herman Bergson: If you have any remarks or questions...plz go ahead
[13:18] BerwynBangarang: Truth seems to be a slippery thing to define. we have an intuition, but what does 'truth' mean? I prefer to to think in terms of observable and explainable
[13:19] Bejiita Imako: yes something like that id say too
[13:19] Pretafox: The conflict with relativism, reminds me of the "Dependent Co-arising " that Gautama spoke of. (the buddha) were truth is based around what does or does not cause suffering to us.
[13:19] herman Bergson: that is the empiricist way indeed :-)
[13:19] Bejiita Imako: that we know is the case 100 %
[13:19] Pretafox: sorry, Berwyn if I interrupted
[13:19] Bejiita Imako: but guess its more complex then that
[13:19] herman Bergson: We are in a difficult position epistemologically...
[13:19] BerwynBangarang: yes, and it work in SL with respect to building :)
[13:20] BerwynBangarang: (done)
[13:20] herman Bergson: On the one hand  we are inclined to take a realist position....
[13:20] herman Bergson: on the other hand...truth IS a slippery concept indeed....
[13:20] Bejiita Imako: can be for sure
[13:20] herman Bergson: I have no real answer to this problem...
[13:20] Areyn Laurasia: How is truth different from fact in this case?
[13:21] herman Bergson: Science is indeed inclined to talk about facts...not about truth...
[13:21] herman Bergson: But yes we have true facts....and for instance pseudo science...
[13:21] herman Bergson: which  looks factual but isn’t
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: facts can be falsified and then are not true facts, but the definition of the word fact = truth
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: sort of
[13:22] herman Bergson: the problem here is that facts are theory laden....
[13:22] BerwynBangarang: many facts are found not be facts. It was a "fact" that caucasians had larger brains that other races. Until independent verification was tried
[13:22] Mona Rives: facts are subject of interpretation
[13:22] herman Bergson: Indeed Mona....!
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: ah yes that can be, facts are believed to be true until proven otherwise u can say
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: and then are replaced with new facts
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: about same subject
[13:24] herman Bergson: we are lead by observation and experiment....
[13:24] Areyn Laurasia: If science is more about fact finding and truth more on how to interpret the facts base on personal and other bias..
[13:24] BerwynBangarang: but that does not meet our normal intuition about facts. it means that many propostions are incorrectly accepted as fact
[13:24] herman Bergson: Yes these days with big data.....
[13:25] herman Bergson: big data don’t exist....interpretations exist...of observations
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: what is definition of big data really? the LHC spewing out billions of GB every second to analyse and similar things?
[13:26] BerwynBangarang: big data is just messy data that can only be analyzed statistically. surely the data exists
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: huge amount of information
[13:26] Areyn Laurasia: are numbers and figures not measured facts?
[13:26] BerwynBangarang: no
[13:26] herman Bergson: but there you already start interpreting by choosing your statistical methods....
[13:27] herman Bergson: setting your parameters for significance
[13:27] BerwynBangarang: yes, I agree. there are ineffective methods and there are often biases.
[13:28] herman Bergson: It is a somewhat confusing situation, it seems....
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:28] BerwynBangarang: yes, science is difficult
[13:28] herman Bergson: on the one hand we have the activity we call science....which comes up with real results....
[13:28] herman Bergson: and on the other hand....
[13:29] Mona Rives: the goal of science is to build the model of existing world
[13:29] herman Bergson: when you start digging for a justification you run into a lot of loose ends
[13:29] herman Bergson: That is one of the issues we discussed here Mona...
[13:30] herman Bergson: Just ask yourself HOW such a model relates to reality???
[13:30] herman Bergson: Or even in our concepts and theories relate to reality
[13:30] herman Bergson: or how it is possible that mathematical calculations correspond with empirical findings
[13:31] Areyn Laurasia: Truth is no end point. It's a continuous journey of discovery, opening ourselves to new ideas, facts and possibilities.
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: it sure it
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: is
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes Areyn.....but it leaves the door open for relativism....
[13:31] herman Bergson: the idea that anything goes in science
[13:32] herman Bergson: and that is conflicting with our intuition...
[13:32] herman Bergson: It is a fascinating scenery
[13:33] Pretafox: cultural relativism can lead to the view there is no such thing as evil, based on what is acceptable in one culture vs. another. Something I personally would warn children about.
[13:33] BerwynBangarang: quantum mechanics is non intuitive
[13:33] Mona Rives: human observer is restricted in tools and abilities to build the abstract model
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes Berwyn....I agree...
[13:34] Areyn Laurasia: A lot of discoveries were made by chance. If one starts of trying to be right, all those discoveries would not have been made. How can one know what is true or not if it's not tried?
[13:34] Areyn Laurasia: *off
[13:35] herman Bergson: That is what research intends to do, I would say
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:36] herman Bergson: As you see, in stead of answers we only run into more questions ^_^
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: it seems so
[13:36] herman Bergson: In some sense Kuhn is is an activity of a social community thta believes in certain axioms
[13:37] herman Bergson: And what we call scientific theories appear to work in explaining reality and predicting things
[13:38] Areyn Laurasia: until we get to the quantum level
[13:38] BerwynBangarang: quantum mechanics is very predictable
[13:38] herman Bergson: Yes the Quantum argumant is rather popular.....
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: than it gets really complex
[13:38] herman Bergson: unfortunately I am not a specialist in that area  :-))
[13:39] BerwynBangarang: quantum mechanics is very predictable, but non intuitive. at least to me
[13:39] herman Bergson: Physical laws can be counter intuitive....
[13:40] herman Bergson: Take Newton's laws....
[13:40] herman Bergson: He says that an object is in rest when it moves at a constant speed....
[13:40] herman Bergson: We would be inclined to say it moves....
[13:40] Beertje Beaumont: / Jag älskar datorer
[13:40] Bejiita Imako:
[13:41] Beertje Beaumont: oops
[13:41] herman Bergson: and yet is natural laws are based on that idea...among other things
[13:41] Areyn Laurasia: :)
[13:41] BerwynBangarang: he would say it is in motion, but a constant motion
[13:41] herman Bergson: yes...but it is in rest
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: an object is at rest when no forces act on it sort of
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: to accelerate or decelerate it
[13:41] herman Bergson: exactly Bejiita...
[13:41] BerwynBangarang: it is in rest in a particular inertial frame
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:42] herman Bergson: Well I am no physist  but this idea I found rather interesting...
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well...I think I have tortured your brains enough for today :-))
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:43] herman Bergson: Thank you for your participation again....
[13:43] herman Bergson: lol and there is Rodney....
[13:43] BerwynBangarang: it has been a pleasure
[13:43] Pretafox: thank you for the talk, herman
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: hey
[13:43] herman Bergson: Class dismissed :-)))
[13:43] Beertje Beaumont: thank you Herman
[13:44] Rodney Handrick: Well, I tried...
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: cu soon again all
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes you did Rodney...appreciated ^_^
[13:44] BerwynBangarang: thank you for the talk Herman. I am grateful even if I disagreed from time to time
[13:44] Mona Rives: thank you Herman
[13:44] Mona Rives: bye everyone
[13:44] herman Bergson: It is good to disagree, Berwyn...
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: cu soon al
[13:45] Areyn Laurasia: bye Bejiita
[13:45] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye Bejiita
[13:45] BerwynBangarang: So do you see that I can be an Empiricist in a virtual world ;-)
[13:45] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ty herman & class and hi Rodney :-)
[13:45] herman Bergson: I  see you are here...:-)
[13:46] Areyn Laurasia: it's only a virtual medium :)
[13:46] BerwynBangarang: giggles
[13:46] Areyn Laurasia: but the ideas transcend both
[13:46] Beertje Beaumont: have a goodnight all...bye bye
[13:46] Areyn Laurasia: goodnight, Beertje
[13:47] BerwynBangarang: I would like to believe that Areyn
[13:47] BerwynBangarang: but I don't know to to find such ideas
[13:48] Areyn Laurasia: back to the hunt :)
[13:48] herman Bergson: oh yes...have fun Areyn
[13:48] BerwynBangarang: good bye herman
[13:48] Areyn Laurasia: Ty, bye everyone
[13:49] herman Bergson: Bye

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