Who Rules in Science?: An Opinionated Guide to the Wars

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Rouse - - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17 1 Boris Grosdanov - - Croatian Journal of Philosophy Who Rules in Science? Antonio Dieguez - - Theoria 17 3 James Brown. Cambridge, Mass. New Articulations of The. Hudson - - Dialogue 42 3 Book Review: Who Rules in Science?

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An Opinionated Guide to The. Bunge - - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 35 2 Sergio Sismondo - - Episteme 1 3 Keith Parsons - - Philosophy of Science 69 4 Oxford University Press. Neil F. One corollary of the critical spirit is fallibilism: namely, the understanding that all our empirical knowledge is tentative, incomplete and open to revision in the light of new evidence or cogent new arguments though, of course, the most well-established aspects of scientific knowledge are unlikely to be discarded entirely.

It is important to note that well-tested theories in the mature sciences are supported in general by a powerful web of interlocking evidence coming from a variety of sources. Moreover, the progress of science tends to link these theories into a unified framework, so that for instance biology has to be compatible with chemistry, and chemistry with physics. The philosopher Susan Haack [2] has illuminatingly analogized science to the problem of completing a crossword puzzle, in which any modification of one word will entail changes in interlocking words; in most cases the required changes will be fairly local, but in some cases it may be necessary to rework large parts of the puzzle.

Please note the limitation to questions of fact. I intentionally exclude from my purview questions of ethics, aesthetics, ultimate purpose, and so forth.

Who Rules In Science?: An Opinionated Guide To The Wars

Of course, the fact that we all practice science from time to time does not mean that we all practice it equally well, or that we practice it equally well in all areas of our lives. The extraordinary successes of the natural sciences over the last years in learning about the world, from quarks to quasars and everything in-between, are well known to every modern citizen: science is a fallible yet enormously successful method for obtaining objective albeit approximate and incomplete knowledge of the natural and to a lesser extent, the social world. But, surprisingly, not everyone accepts this; and here I come to my first — and most lightweight — example of adversaries of the scientific worldview, namely academic postmodernists and extreme social constructivists.

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Such people insist that so-called scientific knowledge does not in fact constitute objective knowledge of a reality external to ourselves, but is a mere social construction, on a par with myths and religions, which therefore have an equal claim to validity. If such a view seems so implausible that you wonder whether I am somehow exaggerating, consider the following assertions by prominent sociologists:. Statements as clear-cut as these are, however, rare in the academic postmodernist literature. More often one finds assertions that are ambiguous but can nevertheless be interpreted and quite often are interpreted as implying what the foregoing quotations make explicit: that science as I have defined it is an illusion, and that the purported objective knowledge provided by science is largely or entirely a social construction.

For example, Katherine Hayles, professor of literature at Duke University and former president of the Society for Literature and Science, writes the following as part of her feminist analysis of fluid mechanics:.


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If conservation laws represent particular emphases and not inevitable facts, then people living in different kinds of bodies and identifying with different gender constructions might well have arrived at different models for [fluid] flow. And Andrew Pickering, a prominent sociologist of science, asserts the following in his otherwise-excellent history of modern elementary-particle physics:.

On the view advocated in this chapter, there is no obligation upon anyone framing a view of the world to take account of what twentieth-century science has to say. But let me not spend time beating a dead horse, as the arguments against postmodernist relativism are by now fairly well known: rather than plugging my own writings, let me suggest the superb book by the Canadian philosopher of science James Robert Brown, Who Rules in Science? Suffice it to say that postmodernist writings systematically confuse truth with claims of truth, fact with assertions of fact, and knowledge with pretensions to knowledge — and then sometimes go so far as to deny that these distinctions have any meaning.

In fact, over the past decade, academic postmodernists and social constructivists seem to have backed off the most extreme views that they previously espoused.

Who rules in science?: an opinionated guide to the wars - James Robert Brown - Google Books

Perhaps I and like-minded critics of postmodernism can take some small credit for this, by initiating a public debate that shed a harsh light of criticism on these views and forced some strategic retreats. But most of the credit, I think, has to be awarded to George W. Bush and his friends, who showed just where science-bashing can lead in the real world. He writes:. And yet entire Ph. That, of course, is exactly the point I was trying to make back in about social-construction talk taken to subjectivist extremes.

I hate to say I told you so, but I did — as did, several years before me, Noam Chomsky, who recalled that in a not-so-distant past:. Politics and the English language, in A Collection of Essays, pp. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, p. Feminist critique of science and the challenge of social episte- mology.

go here New York University Press, p. Relativism, rationalism and the sociology of knowl- edge. Blackwell, p. Harvard University Press, pp. University of Minnesota Press, p.