Job for next week:
Let's look at these readings, and continue the discussion of what we
want science to mean. Please email us your thoughts by Tuesday evening.
You're a complete bunch of stars. We made a great start on a very
complicated issue. It is probably necessary to wallow in the details
for a while, but we do want to get to the point of discussing whether
there is something in all of this that can help us find a way to get
more efficiently towards the truth in our fields. So lets try and head
in that direction.
This week is a little lighter on reading.
Should the history of science be rated X? Brush. Science, 1974. (pdf)
Fifteen Myths of science. McComas, 1998. (pdf)
Models in Science. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Frigg, 2006. (pdf)
David's notes on the discussion in class, as a basis for the readings,
followed by some other thoughts to get us started on what models mean.
Other thoughts about defining and choosing problems:
- What is science?
- A body of knowledge? A process? A culture – an agreement for how
to build knowledge?
- Science vs. engineer? Both are problem solvers.
- Is normal science just problem solving – going for the
low-hanging fruit. Science provides a methodology for evaluating which
of two hypotheses are farther from the truth, and helps illuminate
- Popper seems to outline a method for a mature science (or for a
well defined system) for getting closer to the truth (the process by
which we build knowledge).
- Pre-science: perhaps we can’t falsify things, but we are building
a body of information to hone hypotheses. What additional
- Pre-science and science both tell stories about how the world
works. In the case of science, the stories are analogies based on a
knowledge we are reasonably confident (through tests and time) is
likely to be on the right track.
- A pre-science tells stories on weaker foundation. For the latter,
how do you get closer to the truth? How do you make sure you are
systematic way? What is the systematic way?
- Do we do science the way we report science?
- Is a mature science hallmarked by theories that are of lower
dimensionality than what they are intended to explain. And by theories
that make surprising predictions, that can be (and eventually are
- What if we thought of science as a conscious striving to define
falsifiable hypothesis? This would include science and a prescience.
- If Kuhn is just reporting on the ‘description’ of changes in
understanding, how can you be sure that you are any closer to the
truth? What if you have settled into only one attractor / ‘truth well’
, and are still far from the truth?
- Will the same field undergo multiple revolutions where basic
understanding is shown to be wrong?
- Can a complex system be understood scientifically?
- Climate? Human body? Can you define a system of rules or culture
(like the rules for science by popper) that help us move closer to the
- The extreme importance of "skeptical enquiry".
- How well defined is the problem in question
(and what does that even
- The importance of having a problem with a
tractable scope. That is, can you anticipate how many things
are you going to need to know in order to understand your
problem? Is that realistic?
- How well established is the "background
knowledge" you are going to need to use?
- Even if you don't know the solution to a
problem, can you lay out a recipe for how you might get there?
- Or can you identify the elements that you
expect the solution to have?
- Is it more effective to bound the range of the answer more
effectively than actually finding it?
- How wrong might I be (Popperist - looking to falsify a
- How certain am i (positivist -- looking to confirm a theory)?
- Need a Her Majesty's Oposition -- need to have the community have
this check and balance mechanism.
- need to develop a culture that you are your own devil's advocate
- how well does your paper sharpen critical thinking on an issue?
- how well did you try to critically assess your contribution?