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A. F Chalmers: What is this thing


called science
Introduction
The book describes reasons for doubting that facts acquired by
observation and experiments are as straightforward and secure as has
traditionally been assumed.
Scientific knowledge can neither be conclusively proved nor conclusively
disproved by reference to the facts.
The great embarrassment in scientific theory is that the major advances in
science have not been achieved in a way that the philosophy of science
say they should have been.

Is science derived from facts? We want it to be but we cannot prove


that it is.
The facts are presumed to be claims about the world that can be
directly established by a careful, unprejudiced use of the senses
1700-1800. John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume all
proposed that knowledge could be derived from perception, from the
facts of experience.
Empiricism and positivism share the common view that scientific
knowledge should in some way be derived from the facts arrived at
by observation.
Solely the object viewed but also on experiences, knowledge and
expectations of the observer does not determine visual experiences.
Before an observer can formulate an observation statement there
must be a conceptual framework for what is observed. The parent
points at something and says "Apple" and then the child knows some
features of an apple. Before the child can classify something as being
an apple it has probably seen a number of apples.
There is a continuous interplay between facts and theory

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2 Observation as practical intervention

The scientist seldom observe facts directly as they are but creates
circumstances that isolates only the details that the scientist wants
to observe. This is how the complexity of the world is handled.
The scientist may try to modify the world and then observe what
happens. This is an example of even further intervention in the world

3 Experiment

Its not just facts that are needed, but relevant facts.
It may be necessary to manipulate variables. Some variables are held
constant and some are manipulated and then it is easier to draw
conclusions
Scientific results come more from experiments than from observable
facts.
The acceptability of experimental results is theory driven.
The stock of available experimental results is constantly updated. Old
results are rejected and new are proposed because of: 1) new
measurements, 2)New knowledge and understanding of the problem
The relationship between theory and experiment may involve a
circular argument

4 Induction

The number of observations forming the basis of generalisations


must be large
The observations must be repeated under a variety of conditions
No accepted observation statement should conflict with the derived
law
Induction goes from facts to laws and theories, while deduction goes
from laws and theories to predictions and explanations

5 Falsificationism

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There is a danger with self-affirmative systems like Marxism,


psychoanalysis and many religions
Even if a theory is not proven to be true one can claim that it is the
best available theory
If a theory should be useful it should be possible to explicitly state
how it is possible to prove that the theory is false. If this cannot be
proven in any way than the theory is not good. For example: A raven
that was not black has been observed. This shows that the
statement: "All ravens are black" must be false.
Falsifiable statements are those when an observation statement can
prove that the theory is false
It never rains on Wednesday
All substances expand when heated
Non-falsifiable:
Either it is raining or it is not raining
Luck is possible in sporting speculation
Whenever you make definite claims about something this is an
indication that it is falsifiable
The more precise it is formulated the more falsifiable it is
The more general the claim the higher the status:
Mars moves in an ellipse around the sun
All planets move in ellipses around the sun
Nobody can deny that falsification is good, but many can deny that it
is useful. Bold conjectures are seldom falsifiable.
If we only would admit theories that can be proven to be true or
untrue into science we would omit most of all useful theories before
they were even investigated.
Science starts from problems since observations are only relevant in
relation to some theory

6 The growth of science

A hypothesis should be more falsifiable than the one for which it is

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offered as a replacement
Ad-Hoc modifications of theories are those with no testable
consequences
Both the inductivist and the falsificationist view of confirmation is
needed
Sophisticated falsificationism does not need credit from repetition as
does induction

7 Limitations of falsificationism

Nothing in the logic of a situation requires that it is always the law or


theory that should be rejected on the occasion of a clash with
observation or with experiment. On the contrary. This would be highly
dangerous since it could kill promising theories
Conclusive falsifications of theories by observation is not achievable
We did not abandon Newton just because some of his results were
wrong. We can always deflect falsification to some other part of our
large web of assumptions
If we would have applied falsificationism on the work described in
history we would never had achieved any scientific results
Neither inductivist nor falsificationists give an account of science that
is compatible with it.

8 Theories as structures. Kuhn's paradigms

Statements and the concepts figuring in them will be as precise and


informative as the theory in whose language they are formed is
precise and informative.
A concept emerges from a vague symbolic form in the unconscious
to a gradual clarification as the theory in which it plays a role takes on
a more coherent form.
Development of science:
pre-science
normal science
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crisis
revolution
new normal science
new crisis
etc....
The paradigm distinguishes science from non-science. According to
Kuhn, Sociology lacks a paradigm
All paradigms will contain some anomalies but this does not mean
that the paradigm should be falsified. There will always be anomalies
Periods of normal science provide the opportunity for scientists to
develop the esoteric details of the science
The weakness of Kuhn is that it is not possible to find out whether
one paradigm is better than another. It depends on the values of the
group or of society.

9 Theories as structures. Imre Lakatos

Research should follow positive and negative heuristics


Thomas Young's theories of wave won few supporters but the same
theory as presented by Fresnel won many supporters. The difference
was the positive heuristics that surrounded Fresnel.
The researcher should be as a historian who identifies hard core
issues and creates a protective belt around these
Science is carried out as a competition between programs
Lakatos make a distinction between appraisal of research programs
which can only be done with a historical hindsight and advice to
scientists
Lakatos claimed that there is no instant rationality in science
Theories should be tested against the history of science
The weakness of Lakatos theories is that it is very difficult to identify
the hard core of a science. Especially when it concerns new
hypotheses. If a hard core is needed no progress will be made
If Copernicus had followed Lakatos advice the whole research

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program should have been eliminated since Lakatos claims that all
programs that do not have a hard-core should be eliminated.
Lakatos based it all on physics and claimed that science must share
the basic characteristic of physics

10 Feyerabend's anarchistic theory of science

History:
Science is special because it is derived from facts. This was
false since facts are theory dependent
Falsification failed since science it not able to locate the cause of
a faulty prediction
Kuhn and Lakatos tried to solve the problem by focusing on the
theoretical framework in which the scientist work, but Kuhns
theory failed since who knows which program is better than
another?, and Lakatos failed because it was so lax that no
intellectual pursuits could be ruled out
Feyerabend claimed that there exist nothing like a scientific
method that is useful for scientists
The principle was "anything goes"
Feyerabend shoed that all progress in science has not been the
results from following any type of scientific method. If the
method cannot even make sense of Galileo's innovations the
method is not applicable.
Some scientific programs cannot be compared since they are
based on entirely different perspectives and thus the scientists
cannot communicate with each other.
Feyerabend criticized Kuhns proposal about consensus as a
criteria since it did not rule out politicking or crime
Feyerabend claimed that holding the scientific method as a
morel is dangerous because this would inhibit more than it would
help
F. proposed a humanitarian attitude, the cultivation of

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individuality which alone can produce well-developed human


beings
The state must be free from science just like the state is free
from church. Free society from the strangling hold of an
ideologically petrifying science.
F. can be criticised for not counting with the active role of
society in creating individuals. Individuals are created into a
society the pre-exists them

11 Methodological changes in method

There are many indications to believe that a universal and ahistoric


method is highly implausible and even absurd. It would lock science
into a fixed position and make it dogmatic instead of adaptable.
A universal method or no method at all does not exhaust all
possibilities
Galileo showed that we cannot rely only on the naked eye-
observations since we use tools to observe
Chalmers proposes that there is a universal method seen from a
common-sense perspective since most scientists agree on a number
of basic criteria

12 The bayesian approach

Maybe probability calculus is the answer. Its not true or false. It is


more or less probable.
Abduction from many indications increases the probability using
Bayes theorem.
If a person is out in the rain without an umbrella he gets wet. He was
out in the rain without an umbrella. => deduction
If a person is wet this is an indication he was out in the rain without
an umbrella => abduction
The more indications the better

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P(h/e) = P(h) * P(e/h)


.........................P(e)
where P(h) = prior probability, e = evidence, P8H/e) = posterior probability
after the evidence e is taken into the account

The criticism against Bayesian approach is that the reasoning often is


based on subjective interpretations and thus we do not get the hard
core of classical experimental results as we do in physics.
However, according to the "Bayesians" we can start with low
probabilities and then successively get higher and higher
probabilities until we have knowledge enough to perform
experiments of a more classical type

13 The new experimentalism

According to Robert Ackerman experiments can have a "life of their


own" independent of large scale theory. Science could be based on
practical strategies to retrieve more relevant information to proceed
with experiments
Science learns from mistakes. Experimentalists do this better than
Popper because if research is based on falsificationable theories
there is no explicit guidance to how we can use the data from
failures.
Experiments are not based on paradigms or theory but on previous
experiments, and are independent of high level theory. Galileo did not
have a theory about the moons of Jupiter.
Experiments are guided by theory but not high-level theory. As soon
as they are indicating something a switch is done that shows how the
results relate to theories.
The new experimentalists have not shown how high-level theory can
be eliminated from science

14 Why should the world obey laws

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Epistemological questions. How scientific knowledge is proven by the


use of evidence
Ontological questions. Questions about the kind of things that exists
in the world
Laws as regularities => they show patterns
Laws as characterisations of powers and dispositions => We
describe the world according to our own needs
Thermodynamic and conservative laws. The energy is constant in a
closed system. There is, however, no cause and effect. Only
relationships.

15 Realism and anti-realism

The enduring part of science is the one that is based on observations


and experiments
We find out about the world not only by observing it but by
interacting with it
We need a meta-language to be able to talk about a language
Anti realists are often called instrumentalists. The anti-realists claim
that there must be a distinction between the knowledge and the
observational level. They advocate productive theories in favor of
true theories. The critics claim that a productive theory is no proof at
all that the theory is true.
Scientific realism => We cannot know if our theories are true but we
can know if they are "truer" than our old theories
The conjectural realist knows that all our theories may be false. The
very idea that we can declare past theories as false shows that we
are heading in the right direction
Unrepresentative realism and structural realism. The realist points out
the success of predictions. The anti-realist shows that theories that
previously made successful predictions are today considered as
false.

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