May 27th, 2013
I did have a few questions in regards to the nature of scientific explanation and furthering (or ‘advancing’, if you prefer) scientific knowledge. Hume had recognized that the problem of induction can not be justified by an inductive rule (that would be circular) or a deductive rule (or else the principle wouldn’t be inductive – we cannot deduce the truth of induction from the axioms of logic). This of course being Hume’s fork.
However, does Karl Popper’s interpretation of scientific methods being deductive (or falsifiable) solve this problem more so than science on the inductive interpretation? In short, Im just curious if we are reasonable in rejecting Hume’s skepticism, but sound in still adhering to science hinging off of induction.
I did a lot of work on this question in my MA thesis. My full answer is a bit long but I hope it’s easy to follow. For the Reader’s Digest version, I’d say that I’m not a fan of deductive arguments and I prefer inductive arguments. (Actually, I love abductive arguments much more but that’s another issue!) I’m very sympathetic to Popper’s criterion of falsifiability but it’s not a necessary condition for science–it’s just preferable. I’ll try to contextualize and elaborate on some of the hidden talking points in your question so some of the readers can follow along.
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January 14th, 2013
There isn’t a straight line of demarcation between science and pseudoscience (PS), which is universally applicable in all fields categorized as scientific. A general guide for demarcating between the two is that the theory should have observable evidence, provides predictions, uses non-controversial reasoning, and is repeatable. These are simply guidelines and do not necessarily count as criteria for disqualifying a theory if all aren’t met because some are simply untenable depending on the field in which they are applied. Falsification is not necessary for a scientific theory but it does help substantiate the theory as a robust scientific theory.
When considering the criterion of observable evidence I make the distinction between observation and what is empirical. Something may be observed and qualify as evidence even though it’s not related to material causes. This is where the distinction between Duhemian science and Augustinian science must be made. I would deny the use of Duhemian science. This method, or philosophy, has a goal of stripping science from all metaphysical imports. Augustinian science is open to metaphysical presuppositions with science. In the mid 1800’s William Whewell was the first to restrict science to only mean natural science. Pierre Duhem followed this idea and constructed a methodology, which barred explanations to material causes. For instance, agent causation is completely compatible with Augustinian science but is prohibited as a scientific explanation in Duhemian science. Agent causation is something that can be observed but isn’t necessarily reductionistic in the material sense as with material causation because agent causation has metaphysical import.
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