Posts Tagged ‘science’
The main proposition of this paper is that science communication necessarily involves and includes cultural orientations. There is a substantial body of work showing that cultural differences in values and epistemological frameworks are paralleled with cultural differences reflected in artifacts and public representations. One dimension of cultural difference is the psychological distance between humans and the rest of nature. Another is perspective taking and attention to context and relationships. As an example of distance, most (Western) images of ecosystems do not include human beings, and European American discourse tends to position human beings as being apart from nature. Native American discourse, in contrast, tends to describe humans beings as a part of nature. We trace the correspondences between cultural properties of media, focusing on children’s books, and cultural differences in biological cognition. Finally, implications for both science communication and science education are outlined.
The paper deals with the interrelations between the philosophy, sociology and historiography of science in Thomas Kuhn’s theory of scientific development. First, the historiography of science provides the basis for both the philosophy and sociology of science in the sense that the fundamental questions of both disciplines depend on the principles of the form of historiography employed. Second, the fusion of the sociology and philosophy of science, as advocated by Kuhn, is discussed. This fusion consists essentially in a replacement of methodological rules by cognitive values that influence the decisions of scientific communities. As a consequence, the question of the rationality of theory choice arises, both with respect to the actual decisions and to the possible justification of cognitive values and their change.
With The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn challenged long-standing linear notions of scientific progress, arguing that transformative ideas don’t arise from the day-to-day, gradual process of experimentation and data accumulation but that the revolutions in science, those breakthrough moments that disrupt accepted thinking and offer unanticipated ideas, occur outside of “normal science,” as he called it. Though Kuhn was writing when physics ruled the sciences, his ideas on how scientific revolutions bring order to the anomalies that amass over time in research experiments are still instructive in our biotech age.
Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the most cited books of the twentieth century. Its iconic and controversial nature has obscured its message. What did Kuhn really intend with Structure and what is its real significance? Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is in many ways an unusual and remarkable book. It has a strong claim to be the most significant book in the philosophy of science in the twentieth century, even though it was written by a man who was not, at that time, a philosopher, describing himself as ‘an ex-physicist now working in the history of science’. Kuhn’s intentions for his book were nonetheless philosophical; yet, its effects have been felt widely beyond philosophy of science. The fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Structure provides an appropriate moment to consider the true significance of Kuhn’s book.
To scientists, the tsunami of relativism, scepticism, and postmodernism that washed through the humanities in the twentieth century was all water off a duck’s back. Science remained committed to objectivity and continued to deliver remarkable discoveries and improvements in technology. In What Science Knows, the Australian philosopher and mathematician James Franklin explains in captivating and straightforward prose how science works its magic. He begins with an account of the nature of evidence, where science imitates but extends commonsense and legal reasoning in basing conclusions solidly on inductive reasoning from facts. After a brief survey of the furniture of the world as science sees it—including causes, laws, dispositions and force fields as well as material things—Franklin describes colorful examples of discoveries in the natural, mathematical, and social sciences and the reasons for believing them. He examines the limits of science, giving special attention both to mysteries that may be solved by science, such as the origin of life, and those that may in principle be beyond the reach of science, such as the meaning of ethics. What Science Knows will appeal to anyone who wants a sound, readable, and well-paced introduction to the intellectual edifice that is science. On the other hand it will not please the enemies of science, whose willful misunderstandings of scientific method and the relation of evidence to conclusions Franklin mercilessly exposes.
In science and engineering faculties just about everywhere, social science training courses have been introduced. Sometimes, the temptation is to believe that a dash of epistemology will be enough to get across to young scientists exactly what science in action is all about. Others believe that a dose of ethics is what they need to be able to deal with society related problems. Of course, such beliefs are by and large illusory. Obviously, some kind of philosophical training has its worth, but what our young experts also need is scientific training that will allow them to get to grips with the real socio-scientific dynamics. They need to be able to understand the dynamics behind the creation of knowledge and innovation, but they also need to be able to act on these, both as professional actors and as responsible citizens. This book provides analysis frameworks to help students and scholars to decode the stakes underlying and surrounding science and technology. It looks at different ways in which science and society interrelate (for example, the emergence of scientific disciplines, the dynamics behind innovation, technical democracy and so on), and at the main social mechanisms that drive and sustain science (institutions, organisations, exchanges between researchers, building of content, concrete practices and so on).
How does science work? Does it tell us what the world is “really” like? What makes it different from other ways of understanding the universe? In Theory and Reality, Peter Godfrey-Smith addresses these questions by taking the reader on a grand tour of one hundred years of debate about science. The result is a completely accessible introduction to the main themes of the philosophy of science. Intended for undergraduates and general readers with no prior background in philosophy, Theory and Reality covers logical positivism; the problems of induction and confirmation; Karl Popper’s theory of science; Thomas Kuhn and “scientific revolutions“; the views of Imre Lakatos, Larry Laudan, and Paul Feyerabend; and challenges to the field from sociology of science, feminism, and science studies. The book then looks in more detail at some specific problems and theories, including scientific realism, the theory-ladeness of observation, scientific explanation, and Bayesianism. Finally, Godfrey-Smith defends a form of philosophical naturalism as the best way to solve the main problems in the field. Throughout the text he points out connections between philosophical debates and wider discussions about science in recent decades, such as the infamous “science wars.” Examples and asides engage the beginning student; a glossary of terms explains key concepts; and suggestions for further reading are included at the end of each chapter. However, this is a textbook that doesn’t feel like a textbook because it captures the historical drama of changes in how science has been conceived over the last one hundred years. Like no other text in this field, Theory and Reality combines a survey of recent history of the philosophy of science with current key debates in language that any beginning scholar or critical reader can follow.
The development of Einstein’s philosophy and the development of logical empiricism were both driven in crucial ways by the quest for an empiricism that could defend the empirical integrity of general relativity in the face of neo-Kantian critiques. But logical empiricism was more than a philosophy of relativity theory, and Einstein’s philosophy of science was more than an answer to Kant. A fuller account of Einstein’s philosophy of science would have to include discussion of his belief in simplicity as a guide to truth, especially in areas of physics comparatively far removed from extensive and direct contact with experiment, as in his own long search for a unified field theory. A fuller account would also investigate Einstein’s largely original and, I think, quite profound distinction between “principle theories” and “constructive theories,” the former constituted of mid-level, empirically well-grounded generalizations like the light principle and the relativity principle, which, by constraining the search for constructive models, often facilitate progress in science, as Einstein thought was the case in his discovery of special relativity. And a fuller account would examine Einstein’s appropriation of what Joseph Petzoldt dubbed “the law of univocalness”, in effect the requirement that theories determine for themselves unique models of the phenomena they aim to describe, for this idea was central to Einstein’s thinking about a permissible space-time event ontology, his solution of the “hole argument” via the “pointcoincidence argument” in the genesis of general relativity, and his more general attitude toward physical reality and objectivity. And partly through its influence on Einstein, this idea of Petzoldt’s also played a significant role in the history of logical empiricism, especially in the development of Carnap’s thinking.
Understanding mental processes in biological terms makes available insights from the new science of the mind to explore connections between philosophy, psychology, the social sciences, the humanities, and studies of disorders of mind. In this perspective we examine how these linkages might be forged and how the new science of the mind might serve as an inspiration for further exploration.
We have seen in this essay four specific areas in which the new science of the mind is particularly well positioned to enrich our understanding of other areas of knowledge. We have seen its potential as an intellectual force and a font of new knowledge that is likely to bring about a new dialog between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. This dialog could help us understand better the mechanisms in the brain that make creativity possible, whether in art, the sciences, or the humanities, and thus open up a new dimension in intellectual history. In addition, an enriched understanding of the brain is needed to guide public policy. Particularly promising areas are the cognitive and emotional development of infants, the improvement of teaching methods, and the evaluation of decisions. But perhaps the greatest consequence for public policy is the impact that brain science and its engagement with other disciplines is likely to have on the structure of the social universe as we know it.