In this essay, which was his presidential address to the Philosophy of Science Association, Ernan McMullin argued that the watershed between “classic” philosophy of science and the “new” philosophy of science can best be understood by analyzing the change in our perception of the role played by values in science. He begins with some general remarks about the nature of value, goes on to explore some of the historical sources for the claim that judgement in science is value‐laden, and concludes (...) by reflecting on the implications of this claim for traditional views of the objectivity of scientific knowledge‐claims. (shrink)
This paper argues that the appraisal of theory is in important respects closer in structure to value-judgement than it is to the rule-governed inference that the classical tradition in philosophy of science took for granted.
The successes scored by the big bang model of cosmic evolution in the 1960’s led to an intensive application of quantum theory to the problem of how the expansion might have begun and what its likely first stages were. It seemed as though an incredibly precise setting of the initial conditions would have been needed in order that a long-lived galactic universe containing heavy elements might develop. One response was to suppose that the fine-tuning could somehow be explained by the (...) presence of humans in the universe. This ran quite counter to the traditional supposition, according to which an initial "chaos" was sufficient. This essay outlines the history of the two principles, argues that the so-called "weak" anthropic principle is banal, distinguishes between two sorts of anthropic explanation, and assesses the prospects of the anthropic turn in cosmology. (edited). (shrink)
From the beginning, the implications of quantum theory for our most general understanding of the world have been a matter of intense debate. Einstein argues that the theory had to be regarded as fundamentally incomplete. Its inability, for example, to predict the exact time of decay of a single radioactive atom had to be due to a failure of the theory and not due to a permanent inability on our part or a fundamental indeterminism in nature itself. In 1964, John (...) Bell derived a theorem which showed that any deterministic theory which preserved locality would have certain consequences for measurements performed at a distance from one another. An experimental check seems to show that these consequences are not, in fact, realized. The correlation between the sets of events is much stronger than any local deterministic theory could allow. What is more, this stronger correlation is precisely that which is predicted by quantum theory. The astonishing result is that local deterministic theories of the classical sort seem to be permanently excluded. Not only can the individual decay not be predicted, but no future theory can ever predict it. The contributors in this volume wrestle with this conclusion. Some welcome it; others leave open a return to at lease some kind of deterministic world, one which must however allow something like action-at-a distance. How much lit it? And how can one avoid violating relativity theory, which excludes action-at-a-distance? How can a clash between the two fundamental theories of modern physics, relativity and quantum theory, be avoided? What are the consequences for the traditional philosophic issue of causality explanation and objectivity? One thing is certain; we can never return to the comfortable Newtonian world where everything that happened was, in principle, predictable and where what happened at one measurement site could not affect another set of measurements being performed light-years away, at a distance that a light-signal could not bridge. Contributors: James T. Cushing, Abner Shimony, N. David Mermin, Jon P. Jarrett, Linda Wessels, Bas C. van Fraassen, Jeremy Butterfield, Michael L. G. Redhead, Henry P. Stapp, Arthur Fine, R. I. G. Hughes, Paul Teller, Don Howard, Henry J. Folse, and Ernan McMullin. (shrink)
Abstract In his Aquinas Lecture 1992 at Marquette University, Ernan McMullin discusses whether there is a pattern of inference that particularly characterizes the sciences of nature. He pursues this theme both on a historical and a systematic level. There is a continuity of concern across the ages that separate the Greek inquiry into nature from our own vastly more complex scientific enterprise. But there is also discontinuity, the abandonment of earlier ideals as unworkable. The natural sciences involve many types of (...) inference; three of these interlock in a special way to produce “retroductive inference,” the kind of complex inference that supports causal theory. (shrink)
Some understand the evolutionary process as more or less predictable; others stress its contingency. I argue that both Christian evolutionists who have assumed that the purposes of the Creator can be realized only through more or less predictable processes as well as those who infer from the contingency of the evolutionary process to the lack of purpose in the universe generally, are mistaken if the Creator escapes from the limits imposed on the creature by temporality, as the traditional Augustinian account (...) supposes. The notion of “purpose” must itself be reinterpreted in such a case. It makes no difference whether the appearance of Homo sapiens is the inevitable result of a steady process of complexification stretching over billions of years, or whether it comes about through a series of coincidences that would have made it entirely unpredictable from the (causal) human standpoint. Either way, the outcome is of God's making, and from the biblical standpoint may appear as part of God's plan. (shrink)
In his Aquinas Lecture 1992 at Marquette University, Ernan McMullin discusses whether there is a pattern of inference that particularly characterizes the sciences of nature. He pursues this theme both on a historical and a systematic level. There is a continuity of concern across the ages that separate the Greek inquiry into nature from our own vastly more complex scientific enterprise. But there is also discontinuity, the abandonment of earlier ideals as unworkable. The natural sciences involve many types of inference; (...) three of these interlock in a special way to produce “retroductive inference,” the kind of complex inference that supports causal theory. (shrink)
As the seventeenth century progressed, there was a growing realization among those who reflected on the kind of knowledge the new sciences could afford (among them Kepler, Bacon, Descartes, Boyle, Huygens) that hypothesis would have to be conceded a much more significant place in natural philosophy than the earlier ideal of demonstration allowed. Then came the mechanics of Newton's Principia, which seemed to manage quite well without appealing to hypothesis (though much would depend on how exactly terms like "force" and (...) "attraction" were construed). If the science of motion could dispense with causal hypothesis and the attendant uncertainty, why should this not serve as the goal of natural philosophy generally? The apparent absence of causal hypothesis from the highly successful new science of motion went far towards shaping, in different ways, the account of scientific knowledge given by many of the philosophers of the century following, notable among them Berkeley, Hume, Reid, and Kant. This "Newtonian" interlude in the history of the philosophy of science would today be accounted on the whole a byway. The Principia, despite its enormous achievement in shaping subsequent work in mechanics, was from the beginning too idiosyncratic from an epistemic standpoint to serve as model for the natural sciences generally. (shrink)
Abstract. Augustine, and following him some major theologians of the early Christian church, noted the apparent discrepancies between the first two chapters of Genesis and suggested an interpretation for these chapters significantly different from the literal. After examining a selection of the relevant texts, we shall follow the later fortunes of this interpretation in brief outline, figuring in particular an unlikely trio: Suarez, St. George Mivart, and Thomas Henry Huxley. Moral: Darwinian theory might plausibly be construed as implementing, unawares, a (...) suggestion from that other Christian tradition. (shrink)
In this essay, I will lay out first in some detail the exegetical principles implicit in Augustine's treatment of an early apparent conflict between Scripture and the findings of “sense or reason.” Then I will analyze Galileo's two major discussions of the issue, first in his Letter to Castelli, and then in his Letter to the Grand Duchess, touching on Foscarini's ill-fated Letter in between. I will turn then to an internal tension that many commentators have perceived within the exegetic (...) principles that Galileo deploys in meeting the theological challenge to Copernicanism. The tension was, broadly speaking, between two rather different strategies for dealing with that challenge. According to the more radical choice, the strategy would be to deny the relevance of Scripture to our knowledge of the natural world. The more conservative strategy would be to allow that the authority of divine revelation extended to passages in Scripture describing features of the natural world but also to admit that where this description clashed with something that could be demonstrated through “sense or reason,” an alternative to the literal, everyday, meaning of the Scripture passage should be sought. This latter proviso would imply that even in this, the most conservative, approach, theology is not being given absolute priority over natural philosophy. (shrink)
Comment on A Fine: "Piecemeal Realism." Fine's critique of scientific realism derives its force from a selective focus on mechanics. But what does the antirealist have to say about evolutionary theory or astrophysics? Furthermore, the circularity objection to the "explanationist" defence of realism can be countered. Fine's own position (NOA) reduces either to instrumentalism or to an unargued-for realism, depending on where the stress is laid.
Duhem attempted to find a middle way between two positions he regarded as extremes, the conventionalism of Poincaré and the scientific realism of the majority of his scientific colleagues. He argued that conventionalism exaggerated the arbitrariness of scientific formulations, but that belief in atoms and electrons erred in the opposite direction by attributing too much logical force to explanatory theories. The instrumentalist sympathies so apparent in Duhem's writings on the history of astronomy are only partially counterbalanced by his view that (...) science is progressing toward a natural classification of the world. (shrink)
We will consider two Christian responses to the enormous advances in recent years in the connected sciences of genetics, evolutionary biology, and biochemistry, a dualist one by Pope John Paul II and an “emergentist” one by Arthur Peacocke. These two could hardly be more different. It would be impossible within the scope of a brief comment to do justice to these differences. What I hope to do instead is more modest: to draw attention to troublesome ambiguities in some of the (...) key concepts on which discussions of human uniqueness depend, to recall very briefly some of the difficulties philosophers have encountered in their attempts to define the relation of the human powers of mind to the material capacities of body, and finally to ask what the theological significance of all this is. (shrink)
When trying to assess the implications of recent deep shifts in the philosophy of science for the broader arena of medicine, the theme that most readily comes to mind is underdetermination . In scientific research one always hopes for determination: that the world should determine the observations we make of it; that evidence should determine the theories we adopt; that the practice of science should determine results independent of the sort of society in which that practice takes place. In this (...) essay, doubts cast on each of these ideas by recent work in philosophy of science will be discussed and the consequences for philosophy of medicine will be indicated. Keywords: Underdetermination, retroduction, Kuhn, observation as theoryladen, realism, theory appraisal, values in science, social dimensions of science CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
What is not often noted about Bas van Fraassen’s distinctive approach to the scientific realism issue is that constructive empiricism, as he defines it, seems to involve a distinctively realist stance in regard to large parts of natural science. This apparent defection from the ranks of his more uncompromisingly anti‐realist colleagues raises many questions. Is he really leaning to realism here? If he is, why is this not more widely noted? And, more important, if he is, is he entitled to (...) this shyly realist concession? Does his many‐pronged attack on what he sees as the main arguments in support of realism leave him with the wherewithal? (shrink)
Since Collins and Hawking described the need for an unimaginably precise flatness in the early universe, many have argued that the cosmos thereby requires design. This essay traces the developments of these design speculations from the Collins-Hawking discovery in 1973 to the present, and describes the four possible responses that are available to the apparent fine-tuning of the universe.
The notion of imagination as a specific human capacity first took shape in the works of Plato and Aristotle, and was further developed by Latin writers like Cicero and Christian theologians like Augustine. It came to be associated in a special way with the activity of poets and was celebrated as such in Dante's Divine Comedy. By the 17th century Francis Bacon could contrast science as the work of reason with poetry, the work of imagination. Yet in that same century, (...) an enlargement began of the human grasp of things very distant, very small, and long past, i.e. of things, processes, and events, entirely remote from the testimony of direct perception. This enlargement depended in the first instance on human powers of imagination, though those engaged in its pursuit were slow to recognize this, so strong was the perceived opposition between reason and imagination. Only very gradually did that opposition break down; even today, when theoretical physics depends so crucially on the construction of categories altogether distant from the familiar realm of the senses (defined here as the work of „second imagination”), science is still too often seen as the domain of rigorous method by contrast with the free-ranging territory of the poet and the artist. (shrink)