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Author Topic:   Philosophy is inherent to the practice of Science (whether you know it or not)
Silent H
Member (Idle past 3928 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 1 of 11 (228051)
07-31-2005 8:52 AM


At EvC there has been some debate about the relevance of philosophy or logic in the pursuit of science or scientific research.

As I have said before, science has its roots in philosophy, and is essentially a field of philosophy where a certain paradigm of evidence collection (epistemic justification) has been accepted and is being applied to reach conclusions.

In short, the fields of epistemology and metaphysics over a period of time formed a branch called natural philosophy, which through more time and focus became what we call modern science.

Modern Philosophy of Science is distinct from modern science only in that it retains epistemological concerns that science (as an applied discipline) rarely if ever deals with. It essentially studies scientific method to continue improving the method, or at least understanding its boundaries, as natural philosophers ("scientists") did more often in the past than modern scientists (who have the benefit of a solid and tested paradigm) need do now.

Unfortunately because of the scientific method's routine practical use, many scientists are losing sight of the philosophical nature of science, indeed that it actually is the practice of a philosophical principle that has limits. They refer to science as some sort of mere technical field with rules of what to do, which I guess are self evident (?), and beyond epistemic or logical concerns. Nothing could be more distant from the truth.

This has led to a general ignorance of scientific method and what it can yield or cover. It is almost treated like a religion with set dogma which is beyond question and thought to get at real truths. It has also produced many scientists ready to conflate correlation with causation, and so opinion with knowledge.

On the other hand there are many people frustrated with the success of the scientific method which was accepted long ago by natural philosophers and is the standard for modern science. This appears to be because specific theories they want to have accepted must be ignored or have been ruled out due its limits or its consistent application. This camp then attempts to use epistemological or Philosophy of Science based arguments to challenge the paradigm and get the evidence they wish admitted and so their theory accepted.

The first camp is correct that to work within modern science, the second camp cannot use epistemological argument alone. However the first camp leaves reason just as equally to say that epistemic arguments have no hold on science. It was epistemic debates which drove better methodology toward modern scientific method, and such debate can do so again.

Indeed it was epistemic and metaphysical concerns which were behind Galileo and Bacon. Both argued for a change (in this case correctly) in science, with Galileo in specific so that specific theories could be seen as acceptable.

For those that need some material to read, the following are from Wikipedia on the named topics (I recommend reading the whole pages):

Science:

Science is knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through the scientific method. Scientific knowledge relies heavily upon forms of logic .

Natural Philosophy:

Natural philosophy is a term applied to the objective study of nature and the physical universe before the development of modern science .

In other words, all forms of science historically developed out of philosophy or more specifically natural philosophy. At older universities , long-established Chairs of Natural Philosophy are nowadays occupied mainly by professors of physics .

Philosophy of science:

The philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy which studies the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science , including the natural sciences such as physics and biology , and the social sciences ,such as psychology and economics . In this respect, the philosophy of science is closely related to epistemology and ontology . It seeks to explain such things as: the nature of scientific statements and concepts; the way in which they are produced; how science explains, predicts and, through technology, harnesses nature; the means for determining the validity of information; the formulation and use of the scientific method; the types of reasoning used to arrive at conclusions; and the implications of scientific methods and models for the larger society, and for the sciences themselves.

I might add that a look at the major contributors to philosophy of science before modern philosophers such as Popper, will reveal modern science's direct connection to (and a result of) philosophy of science.

History of Science:

Modern science is a body of verifiable empirical knowledge , a global community of scholars , and a set of techniques for investigating the universe known as the scientific method . The history of science traces these phenomena and their precursors back in time , all the way into human prehistory .

The Scientific Revolution saw the inception of the modern scientific method to guide the evaluation of knowledge . This change is considered to be so fundamental that older inquiries are known as pre-scientific . Still, many place ancient natural philosophy clearly within the scope of the history of science

In the West, from antiquity up to the time of the Scientific Revolution , inquiry into the workings of the universe was known as natural philosophy , and those engaged in it were known as natural philosophers . This included some fields of study which are no longer considered scientific). An account of the development of (natural) philosophy from ancient times until recent times can be found in Bertrand Russell 's History of Philosophy . In many cases, systematic learning about the natural world was a direct outgrowth of religion , often as a project of a particular religious community.

One important feature of "pre-scientific" inquiry (whether in the West or elsewhere) was reluctance to engage in experiment . For example, Aristotle , one of the most prolific natural philosophers of antiquity , made countless observations of nature, especially the habits and attributes of plants and animals in the world around him. He focused on categorizing , and made many observations on the large-scale workings of the universe, which led to the development of a comprehensive theory of physics (see Physics (Aristotle) ). Yet, until the period of the Scientific Revolution , these theories were never really tested experimentally. At the time, the utility of experiment was unproven. Some believed that setting up artificial conditions in an experiment could never produce results that would describe nature as it was in the world around them.

The Scientific Revolution is held by most historians to have begun in 1543 , when De Revolutionibus , by the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus , was first printed. The thesis of this book was that the Earth moved around the Sun. The period culminated with the publication of the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687 by Isaac Newton .

Other significant scientific advances were made during this time by Galileo Galilei ,Christiaan Huygens ,Johannes Kepler , and Blaise Pascal . In philosophy, major contributions were made by Francis Bacon , Sir Thomas Browne ,René Descartes , and Thomas Hobbes . The basics of scientific method were also developed: the new way of thinking emphasized experimentation and reason over traditional considerations.

Everyone can follow links to other subjects within those pages, one important link might be to epistemology so that one understands how natural philosophy and scientific method are direct results of that field of philosophy.

I want to end with a quote regarding science and philosophy from Daniel Dennett, which he wrote in his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea. This subject may be slightly different than what he was addressing but it certainly does work as an accurate assessment of philosophy's role in science, including the scientific method...

"There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination."

(I am not sure where this should go, but if nowhere else, then the coffee house)


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by mick, posted 08-02-2005 7:57 PM Silent H has responded
 Message 6 by Omnivorous, posted 08-03-2005 10:44 PM Silent H has responded

    
AdminSylas
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Message 2 of 11 (228741)
08-02-2005 8:32 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
mick
Member (Idle past 3095 days)
Posts: 913
Joined: 02-17-2005


Message 3 of 11 (228970)
08-02-2005 7:57 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Silent H
07-31-2005 8:52 AM


Hi Holmes,

As science has advanced, so has the philosophy of science. Thirty years ago I could be an evolutionary biologist with little knowledge of philosophy, but now I have to be able to assess (for example) the importance of a prior distribution on the posterior distribution in a bayesian analysis, and I have to worry about "species concepts" and the like.

I get the impression that scientists use the parts of the philosophy of science that they find useful to their work, and ignore the rest. Science is routinely taught as a craft rather than as a philosophical enterprise (the "best" scientists are the ones who know how they should carry out science in order for it to be published in reputable journals). They grow off each other; today's hot topics in applied science result in tomorrow's philosophy articles - and journals.

The practice of science is not the be-all and end-all of the philosophy of science; the philosophy of science does not merely describe and justify alternative scientific activities.

But similarly, the philosophy of science does not simply direct scientific endeavour. Science will use philosophy when it is useful to do so. This is why the sociology of science (a branch of the philosophy of science, I guess) has virtually zero interst amongst practicing scientists - it simply isn't useful on a day-to-day basis.

Science and philosophy exist in an uneasy alliance.

Mick


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Silent H
Member (Idle past 3928 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 4 of 11 (229083)
08-03-2005 7:45 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by mick
08-02-2005 7:57 PM


Science and philosophy exist in an uneasy alliance.

If you are referring to modern philosophy and modern science, then your statement is true. However science is a branch of philosophy. That is what I was setting out with my OP and I didn't see you challenge any of the specific points made within it.

You used the term "advanced" but I would say science and philosophy of science have merely "changed". Advanced sounds like it has made some improvement, when in fact I feel much the opposite has occured.

Let me synopsize my position. Philosophy is the pursuit of knowledge. During this pursuit various branches developed depending on the target of knowledge. Science is the branch called natural philosophy. Indeed my source shows it was used for such endeavours in an interchangable manner and the word itself is nearly identical to philosophy in definition (from the original greek). With the acceptance of a specific philosophical method for acquiring knowledge about natural phenomena, natural philosophy gained a subbranch which has gone on to be referred to specifically as science.

I get the impression that scientists use the parts of the philosophy of science that they find useful to their work, and ignore the rest. Science is routinely taught as a craft rather than as a philosophical enterprise

This is true because with a specific philosophical method of knowledge acquisition taken as granted, the techniques of its application become the main concern of those philosophers. They don't really need to bother thinking about other philosophical issues until their research hits a bump.

the "best" scientists are the ones who know how they should carry out science in order for it to be published in reputable journals). They grow off each other; today's hot topics in applied science result in tomorrow's philosophy articles - and journals.

This however is not accurate at all. Many of the "best" are the ones that understand the scope of the method and the history of its development. Many are rushing to publish crap because they have lost persepective on limits and nature of science.

The ID movement would never have gotten traction if many scientists had not lost the fact that that particular debate had already been ended centuries ago. Even here we see many people (including pro science) not understanding the nature of debate.

I would agree that the growing majority of scientists are technicians bent on publication, with little understanding that they are actually "applied" philosophers using a philosophical research paradigm to achieve understanding about the world in the same way as scientists had in the past using Aristotelian methods (and perhaps not thinking about THOSE limitations).

Modern philosophy of science is a branch which is separate from science and in the way you note. It is a branch looking to gain knowledge about how scientists "know". Some of them will go on to impact the practice of science, and some will not. Perhaps most will not.

That does not change the fact that modern science was created by philosophers of science before that specific term (science) gained common and specific usage, and who in fact were the scientists of that time, refered to as natural philosophers and scientists interchangeably.

My purpose was to correct some views stated at EvC that because there is a difference in the modern practice of science and philosophy of science, that science is somehow separate from philosophy and will never be impacted again by philosophy of science.

I do believe philosophers in general need to be less focused on rationalist or nonempirical based problems, as if those other things are superior, and scientists in general need to realize they are connected to philosophy and a specific philosophy at that so that they will correctly understand the scope and limits of their research.

In the end they are all pursuing knowledge and so all on the same side. The fact that their relation is "uneasy" is a very sad statement of affairs.

(AbE) :

it simply isn't useful on a day-to-day basis.

The sociology and history of science is not useful on a day to day basis. Results of epistemology and the philosophy of science are useful on a day to day basis. Without the results of those fields scientists would not have the techniques they employ on a day to day basis.

Again I feel Dennet's quote is accurate. There is no philosophy free science, only science whose philosophical baggage is accepted without inspection.

This message has been edited by holmes, 08-03-2005 07:50 AM

This message has been edited by holmes, 08-03-2005 07:55 AM


holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)
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mike the wiz
Member
Posts: 4656
From: u.k
Joined: 05-24-2003


Message 5 of 11 (229122)
08-03-2005 10:35 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Silent H
08-03-2005 7:45 AM


Sherlock is on the case
Hi Holmes. Just coming our of lurkdom for a quick twenty questions. I obviously agree that science is philosophy.

I also don't like the fact that people look at science like it is the only way to know things. I personally think epistemology doesn't show this if internalists can still viably know things.

Sherlock writes:

Modern philosophy of science is a branch which is separate from science and in the way you note. It is a branch looking to gain knowledge about how scientists "know"

Would you say science is tentative because of epistemology?

I know that evolutionist's mention that evolution isn't proven yet has a lot of evidence. Would you say that under the requirements of the justified true belief, evolution is known? Is the Gettier problem significant to scientific theories?

There is one position amongst the epistemologists, that suggests that if you know if there is nothing that can destroy the justified true belief. (defeasibility theory), then it is knowledge.

I was thinking that most of the time, either JTB is knowledge, unless you have that felicitious coincidence. How does this apply to science as a whole, and have you solved the problem yet?;) If theories are regarded as knowledge, then is it partially because of defeasibility and that the reasoning is cogent?

Surely scientific theory must require JTB atleast? For example, if there is more than one conclusion to be drawn from the evidence, what is actually fact? The evidence? Or is it that the evidence is stacked so high that the theory is regarded as fact because the inference is so strong?

Forgive my ignorance. I only have knowledge and interest in philosophy and that lil branch, logic.

This message has been edited by mike the wiz, 08-03-2005 10:37 AM


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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1076 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 6 of 11 (229509)
08-03-2005 10:44 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Silent H
07-31-2005 8:52 AM


High sounding generalities but...
Holmes writes (emphasis added):

quote:
Unfortunately because of the scientific method's routine practical use, many scientists are losing sight of the philosophical nature of science, indeed that it actually is the practice of a philosophical principle that has limits. They refer to science as some sort of mere technical field with rules of what to do, which I guess are self evident (?), and beyond epistemic or logical concerns. Nothing could be more distant from the truth.

This has led to a general ignorance of scientific method and what it can yield or cover. It is almost treated like a religion with set dogma which is beyond question and thought to get at real truths. It has also produced many scientists ready to conflate correlation with causation, and so opinion with knowledge.


"many scientists...they refer...a general ignorance...many scientists"

This sounds like a vague notion.

Examples, please?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Silent H, posted 07-31-2005 8:52 AM Silent H has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by Silent H, posted 08-04-2005 4:55 AM Omnivorous has responded

    
Silent H
Member (Idle past 3928 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 7 of 11 (229569)
08-04-2005 4:55 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Omnivorous
08-03-2005 10:44 PM


Re: High sounding generalities but...
This sounds like a vague notion. Examples, please?

I am trying to figure out what you are questioning. Mick suggested the same thing, and this whole thread was begun at the suggestion of Percy because another poster made the same claim.

They have suggested that most scientists do not view, nor use philosophy in their work, and that it is only a technical field. If you have a problem with that notion, then go talk to them. I agree with them that that sentiment is a growing phenomena, witnessed by increased rhetoric of the kind we see here.

Do I have figures? No. I'd be happy to find that most scientists are still aware of the philosophical nature of their work. Do you have any studies on this?

I am also unsure how to exhibit an increase in poor studies or citations of studies in a clinical way. It is true that when one does not understand that science is philosophy one is generally ignorant of the scientific method... which I showed with evidence... but whether that results in problems is less defined.

I would point to the multiple poor references at EvC to articles showing mere correlation, which are treated as causative. Evolutionary Psychology is a fantastic example of an entire field growing up around extremely poor methodology based on a lack of understanding of the limits of scientific method. You can find threads on that field here at EvC.

If you want something more specific, you'll have to be a bit less vague. My main point was to show the connection between philosophy and science. My rant was less important and focused on those at EvC who had made such claims, which apparently you disagree with?


holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)
This message is a reply to:
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Silent H
Member (Idle past 3928 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 8 of 11 (229575)
08-04-2005 5:35 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by mike the wiz
08-03-2005 10:35 AM


Re: Sherlock is on the case
Would you say science is tentative because of epistemology?

I'm not sure if I'd say science is tentative, though scientific theories are. That is because of epistemological rules.

I know that evolutionist's mention that evolution isn't proven yet has a lot of evidence. Would you say that under the requirements of the justified true belief, evolution is known? Is the Gettier problem significant to scientific theories?

Heheheh... under the requirements of JTB? Since the second plank of that is "is true" my saying yes to your question would be somewhat circular or begging the question.

I would say the Gettier problem is not significant to defining knowledge, which is how it is used, but Gettier-like issues must be addressed by anyone trying to reach conclusions within science.

How does this apply to science as a whole, and have you solved the problem yet?

Of course I solved it. Most epistemologists have gotten it wrong. I am what is called an epistemic minimalist. Indeed I was one before it had a name, and before Sartwell was writing. I feel a bit silly not having tried to publish at this point, as I could have beat him by at least 2 years. I think I may still have my essays on the subject... it really threw my prof for a loop.

Knowledge is very simple. The question of determining if X "is true" is the hard part. That is where epistemologists have already done some great work and that is the scientific method. The end result though is that we must understand that the best point we can reach is to fit criteria where we can then say that we know, and not know that we know.

Thus practical statements of knowledge are always tentative. One may have knowledge, but being able to say one has it, because "X is true", requires some justification.

Hopefully you see the distinction and thus why (I feel) JTB has thrown epistemology off track.

Surely scientific theory must require JTB atleast? For example, if there is more than one conclusion to be drawn from the evidence, what is actually fact? The evidence? Or is it that the evidence is stacked so high that the theory is regarded as fact because the inference is so strong?

Scientific theories should be justified and that's as close as it comes to JTB. One must make a connection between facts such as to show as concretely as possible that X is true in the world, beyond your simply holding that belief.

The only "facts" should be the physical evidence, which at a pure metaphysical level may be debated, but must be taken for granted within this natural world when researching natural phenomena.

Theories cannot be fact, as future evidence may come in and alter the theory. Change does not necessarily make a theory "wrong", only incomplete. Theories are models of systems. They are best (consistent) ways of thinking about natural phenomena. They may in fact be wholly errant as knowledge, yet yield such practical solutions as to be practical knowledge and be called knowledge.

It is hard for me to say a theory can have evidence stacked high for it. What they can have is corroboration of predictions. Usually theories are the tools used to stack evidence in a way that it makes sense to our minds, and in a consistent way such that it could be true in the world.

I think that simple theories tying together direct physical evidence, and with good predictive value are certainly "reigning theories" and may reach the level we can call it "known". What we have to be prepared for however, is that we may end up being wrong.

Newtonian physics was practical knowledge, particularly at that time. Our only problem was that it did not address all possible frames of reference. Thus Einsteinian physics has surpassed it as superior practical knowledge. We may get more.

So in synopsis, there is true knowledge which is simple. Then there is practical knowledge which gets at justifying that X is true. That is where the scientific method and theory building is focused. It is perhaps somewhat circular and can result in errant declarations of knowledge, but that is an inherent problem, and not a valid criticism of the system.

Until we are omnipotent, error must be an accepted part of statements regarding practical knowledge. Theories may reach the level of knowledge, but it is difficult the more specified the theory and nondirect the evidence. I believe the general TOE is known, it is the specific theories regarding mechanisms within the TOE which cannot be said to be known.


holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)
This message is a reply to:
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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1076 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 9 of 11 (229631)
08-04-2005 9:37 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Silent H
08-04-2005 4:55 AM


Re: High sounding generalities but...
Good morning, Holmes.

quote:
I am also unsure how to exhibit an increase in poor studies or citations of studies in a clinical way. It is true that when one does not understand that science is philosophy one is generally ignorant of the scientific method... which I showed with evidence... but whether that results in problems is less defined.

I would point to the multiple poor references at EvC to articles showing mere correlation, which are treated as causative. Evolutionary Psychology is a fantastic example of an entire field growing up around extremely poor methodology based on a lack of understanding of the limits of scientific method. You can find threads on that field here at EvC.

If you want something more specific, you'll have to be a bit less vague. My main point was to show the connection between philosophy and science. My rant was less important and focused on those at EvC who had made such claims, which apparently you disagree with?


I requested examples, not a clinical study. Your "point about the connection between philosphy and science" is irrefutable; your assertion about the extent of the problem was broad and unsupported.

I recognize the difficulty of quantifying a broad claim about one's sense of things and asked for illuminating examples, not citations of studies. There does't seem to be anything vague about that request.

Forum posts from undefined authors (e.g.,lay vs. pro) hardly serve to support the notion that "many scientists" suffer from the problem you describe. A more telling example would be published work in which the scientist(s) went wrong, and peer review failed to correct the problem.

On the other hand, if that characterization was merely a rant, as you say, intended to provoke discussion and a greater appreciation of science's philosophical underpinnings, that's fine with me. I am quite sure I will learn by following the discussion.

Thank you for taking the time to reply.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Silent H, posted 08-04-2005 4:55 AM Silent H has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Silent H, posted 08-04-2005 11:32 AM Omnivorous has responded

    
Silent H
Member (Idle past 3928 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 10 of 11 (229714)
08-04-2005 11:32 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Omnivorous
08-04-2005 9:37 AM


Re: High sounding generalities but...
On the other hand, if that characterization was merely a rant, as you say, intended to provoke discussion and a greater appreciation of science's philosophical underpinnings, that's fine with me. I am quite sure I will learn by following the discussion.

Yes, the latter portion was more or less just a rant, and it is based on anecdotal or personal evidence. It was made in reaction to people at EvC claiming that most scientists don't think they use philosophy and so don't actually use philosophy.

I have run into enough people claiming that over the years to feel it is a trend, and I have seen enough bad science in government and private sectors to reinforce this belief.

One of the biggest problems I have seen is people not understanding the legitimate scope of scientific method, and confusing correlation with causation. That is theory plus evidence of correlation equals a conclusion regarding connectivity.

There are concrete examples of this here at EvC. I'd suggest just about any location schraf posts studies to me. Many are incorrectly done, or incorrectly cited. The same would go for Crashfrog, who indeed generated this whole topic by making the overt claim that the practice of science is not connected to philosophy.

But as I said, a very good example of a field of research which has emerged from this lack of understanding, is Evolutionary Psychology. You can go to any of the latest threads on that subject and look at research which has made it past peer review for reasons I cannot fathom. Its like the word "evolution" was waved in front of the reviewers and they all shut their eyes.

If you want to start on concrete examples, then I'd say go there. You'll find me there waiting for replies from EvoPsych proponents regarding the quality of research.

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

No problem. You seem pretty put together and I apologize if my replies seem short or like they might be trying to dodge your point.


holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)
This message is a reply to:
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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1076 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 11 of 11 (229767)
08-04-2005 1:42 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Silent H
08-04-2005 11:32 AM


Searching
Holmes writes:

quote:
I apologize if my replies seem short or like they might be trying to dodge your point.

Not at all: I realized in hindsight that my initial response to your OP was brief to the point of brusqueness. I did want you to know that some thought went into the question and that no discourtesy was intended.

Searching the forums here for 'evolutionary psychology' is next on my task list. I ran 'epistemic problems in scientific literature' on Google Scholar this morning, and I fear my afternoon is more than spoken for...


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