As the semester begins I find myself looking forward into one of my courses with some particularly well-formed expectations and questions.
There seems to be a romanticized folk-notion of Science that has already come into question in the earliest of our readings. Last session, we briefly discussed “naive-inductivism,” which seems to fairly well capture the notion I have in mind. Questions about that theory aside, some broader concerns have emerged: the same folk notion of science that I’m thinking of seems to regard science as the great, objective endeavor – with scientists emotionally divorced from their experiments (aside from the occasional “Eureka!”). This was called into question fairly early last semester in Science and Society, though at the moment I’d like to leave the discussion a bit vague and not include specific theories. Clearly we must admit of the possibility that this is not a realistic view. If that is the case, what is the Philosopher of Science going to find?
The question of values in Science seems to be fairly central to the Philosophy of Science. Along with questions of methodology, I find these to be the most interesting. At this point, for various reasons, I am convinced that values do play a major role in science; most likely, at a number of levels. If the scientific method is not value free after all, does this make much of a difference? I think that this line of questioning is especially relevant considering contemporary issues that pertain to new science. Should society’s values effect science? Should scientist’s values shape their research? Though there may be a fact of the matter regarding both of these questions, the sense I’m after is more “ought” than is.
The other questions I am looking forward to exploring involve methodology. One of the major concerns we are already touching on involves distinguishing science from non-science and perhaps one of the clearest ways to make this distinction is in methodology. Back to that folk notion of science and the scientific method. I’m imagining Newton under an apple tree, among other things.
Is there really one ultimate methodology that distinguishes science from non-science? Perhaps more interesting: is there one methodology that produces “good” science? I’m under the impression that the method of science is hardly static, but nonetheless progress has been possible. It doesn’t seem reasonable to claim that before contemporary technology and methods that science was woefully limited or less powerful. Obviously we now see further and deeper, we imagine smaller and smaller. The discovery of electrons, however, doesn’t seem to outweigh the observation of Jupiter’s moons – at least, not in my mind.
These questions are all a bit preliminary. I imagine that my thoughts regarding both questions of values and methodology will continue to develop throughout the semester. I hope that this can be the beginning of an interesting dialogue and welcome any comments or questions.