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Faith, Hope and Asperity (John Casti)


Misconceptions about the goals of science and the way scientists go about their business of trying to
achieve them: (pp. 11-12)

The primary goal of science is the accumulation of facts.


Science distorts reality and cant do justice to the fullness of human experience.
Scientific knowledge is truth.
Science is concerned primarily with solving practical and social problems.

Things to remember:

Research as a scientific undertaking involves ideas, not answers.

Technology is primarily engineering, and new technologies come more from fighting with physical reality than
from scientific theories. Besides, its not clear that new technologies give us a better understanding of nature
anyway.
**Aim of technology is to develop tools and machineries that will facilitate work and day-to-day activities, but not
necessarily understanding the world around us.

Scientists usually think of science as one area of life in which ideologies play no role.
o

Nevertheless, there is a collection of beliefs and ideals about the practice of science that the scientific
community clings to with such universal tenacity that its difficult to describe it as anything other than an
ideology of science.

The scientific ideology is a mixture of logical, historical and sociological ideals about how science
should operate, and rests upon the following pillars: 1) The logical structure of science (the
scientific method); 2) Verifiability of claims, and 3) Peer review

THE NATURAL PHILOSOPHERS STONES


Whats so special about science? and Why should we believe that scientific knowledge is any more correct or
reliable than any other sort?
Aristotle: developed logos or logic derived from or by the use of logical sequencing (specifically deduction)

Aristotles aim for developing the logic: to provide explanation of how real world events work.
***For something to take place there must be a reason and logical explanation for it (Causal logic).

Aristotle offered a logical sequence of steps in order to arrive at a conclusion (ex. Algorithm, syllogism)

The flaw in Aristotles work is that he did not conduct any experiment, but relied solely on general observations.
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Faith, Hope and Asperity (John Casti)
despite Aristotles main occupation as an observational biologist, the biggest flaw in his entire world picture
was that he advocated no experiments or even use of observation to serve as a check on validity of his
underlying premises. Basically, his was an epistemology in which one inferred specific instances (conclusions)
from general observations (premises). (p. 19)
Francis Bacon: developed the induction method whereby conclusions about future events are drawn on the basis of
repeated past observations (several individual observations)

Flaw: no assurance that it will yield the same results all the time.

Galileo: refinement of the idea by instituting the notion of a controlled experiment.


If you have a theory about how some phenomenon works, you must construct an experiment in which all the
variables except the one youre interested in are controllable. Then, by fixing the controlled variables, you can
measure the variable of interest, thereby checking your theoretical hypothesis against the supreme court of
observation. (p. 20)
Newton:
Newtons legacy: encoding Bacon and Galileos world of observation into mathematical form and invented the
method (calculus) for using the mathematical machinery to interpret and explain Nature.
Science therefore is the welding together of the ideas of deduction, induction, observation and experimentation
through the use of the symbolic language of mathematics.
Research Orientations:

Realism: Realists believe that there is an objective reality out there, independent of ourselves. This reality
exists solely by virtue of how the world is, and it is in principle discoverable by the application of the methods of
science.

Instrumentalism: This school clings to the belief that theories are neither true nor false, but have the status only
of instruments or calculating devices for predicting the results of measurements. Basically, this amounts to the
belief that the only things that are genuinely real are the results of observations.

Relativism: Proposes that truth is no longer a relationship between a theory and an independent reality, but
rather depends at least in part or something like the social perspective of the person holding the theory. Thus, for
a relativist, as one passes from age to age, or from society to society, or from theory to theory; whats true
changes.

I.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: Logic and Language

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Faith, Hope and Asperity (John Casti)

Basic tenet: there must be something in common between the structure of a sentence and the structure of the
fact that the sentence asserts.
representation of the world in thought is made possible by logic, but the propositions of logic do not in and of
themselves represent any actual state of the world.

Picture theory: A picture can represent some physical state using certain types of symbols (because a picture
may bear some relationship to the physical reality that it represents).

Picture theory of language: propositions making up the language are thought of as analogous to a series of
pictures. In language, Wittgenstein assumes that the logical structure of language mirrors the logical structure of
reality the language pictures represent possible states of the world.
o

It follows that linguistic statements are meaningful when they can, in principle, be correlated with the
world.
***Meaningful representation of language takes into account not only the logical rules (structure of
grammar) but also the context of the language itself.
The point is that in the absence of context, i.e. additional information, theres just no such thing as a
natural continuation of the sequence. (p. 30)

Simply put, the sense of the relationship between reality and its description in language cannot be
expressed in language.
Words of a language can never express the desired correspondence, and we must take recourse
merely to showing it. (p. 29)
The propositions of logic reflect the rules of language, and these are known to us by our use of
language in everyday life and by linguistic experience. (p. 31)

II.

Karl Popper: Conjectures and Refutations (Theory and Theory Development)


Recognized that no amount of supporting data will ever be sufficient to confirm a hypothesis; but all it takes to
refute it is one piece of negative evidence.
The criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability. (Casti, 33)

For Popper, one theory of a given situation is to be preferred to another if there are more potential observations
that can refute the theory than can refute its competition. In other words, the more statements that could be
refuted by direct observation a theory makes, the better theory is.

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Faith, Hope and Asperity (John Casti)

The most difficult obstacle is what is known as the Problem of Auxiliary Hypotheses because any theory in
trouble can always be saved by the introduction of suitable auxiliary hypotheses since it may then be claimed
that the original assertion wasnt wrong and that the error was in one of the background assumptions. (p. 33)
*** Scientists do not usually test/refute their hypothesis, but instead they look for ways to support/justify/reinforce
their ideas and assumptions.

III.

Main contention: Handling of science. More than just the logical structure of a theory, it is how science is handled
by scientists that must given focus and attention.
Imr Lakatos: Scientific Research Programs (SRPs) (Research Design)

Main concern was with the dynamics of theories, that is, the structure of scientific theories and their changes

He developed heuristic devices by which to explain his position:


o The Hard Core: the inviolate cluster of hypotheses at the center of the program (established and
generally accepted premises)
o The Protective Belt: auxiliary hypotheses (that would support/reinforce the hard core)
o The Negative Heuristic: assumptions underlying the hard core that are not to be questioned
o The Positive Heuristic: a set of suggestions or hints saying how the SRP is to be altered or modified.

Lakatos discerned 2 important factors about the scientific procedure:


1. Scientists have sufficient faith in the hard core that anomalies are explained away; and
2. Scientists have general ideas about how one should try to cope with anomalies (the positive heuristic)

Point #1: The positive heuristic is not a vague general set of principles but a quite specific procedures giving
definite advice on how to proceed, including instructions on how to handle anomalies.

Contention: The idea of the positive heuristic is hopelessly vague. This part of the program is supposed to tell us
what to do to modify the program (should there be any anomaly) but in fact, it emerges during the course of the
research. As a result, it says nothing about what one is supposed to do to carry out an investigation successful.
(Bottom line, it is still trial and error).

Given this scenario, how do we then decide which among the SRPs is better?

IV.

Paul Feyerabend: There aint no method (Research Method)

In studies of scientific method, there are 2 principal branches:


A. Rules/methods used to discover theories (theorizing)
B. Rules/methods for the objective evaluation of rival theories (critiquing)

Argument: Is there any really distinction between the 2? The Vienna Circle claimed that only letter B was
legitimate. However, for Feyerabend, he said that:
No set of rules can ever be found to guide the scientist in his choice of theories, and to imagine there is such is
to impede progress. The only principle that does not impede progress is anything goes. (Casti, 38)
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Faith, Hope and Asperity (John Casti)

PF is claiming that there is no such thing as a scientific method. Science is just one tradition among many, and is
privileged neither in terms of methods nor in terms of results.

Contention #1: why give science so much premium when what it tries to offer is just one out of the endless
possibilities of explaining/interpreting the world.

Key point: there are many methods and ways of knowing the truth. What is taken to be true at any moment is
more a matter of social convention (prevailing traditions, dominant ideologies) in the scientific community than it
is a product of logical methods and procedures.

V.

Thomas Kuhn: Scientific Paradigms (Paradigms and Epistemology)

Point #1: Viewed that every scientist works within a distinctive paradigm, a kind of intellectual gestalt that colors
the way nature is perceived.

Scientists, just like the rest of humanity, carry out their daily affairs within a framework of pre-suppositions about
what constitutes a problem, a solution and a method (a paradigm).

Point #2: underlying issues are not rational but emotional; and are settled not by logic, syllogisms and appeals to
reasons but irrational factors like group affiliation, majority or mob rules.
There is no standard higher than the ascent of the relevant community. (Casti, 40-41)

Paradigms have great practical value for the scientist; however, they are precarious of time, setting, resources
and people themselves.

There is no such thing as an empirical observation or fact. We always see by interpretation, and the
interpretation we use is shaped by the prevailing paradigm of the moment.

Key point: Kuhn contends that the observer, his theory and his equipment are all essentially an expression of a
point of view; and the results of the experimental test must be an expression of that point of view as well.

Contention #2: There is no such thing as a scientific progress at least not in the sense that one paradigm builds
upon its predecessor. Rather, the new paradigm turns in an entirely different direction; and as much knowledge
is lost with the abandonment of the old paradigm as is gained from the new.

For Kuhn, science has to consider the human dimension/aspect of the scientific enterprise primarily because
science is product of man and his society.

Furthermore, objectivity in science is achievable, insofar as it can describe characteristics which is objectively
observed in an object and not based on opinions and subjective perceptions of the observer or the subject. But
as Kuhn emphasized, results of an experiment are nothing but the expressions of a point of view of the observer
and his paradigm.