Posts tagged ‘scientific theory’

December 20th, 2013

Science without Epistemology is Impossible

by Max Andrews

A robust epistemology is a sufficient condition for a successful pursuit of scientific inquiry.  There are many other factors and conditions that must be met for science but a vigorous epistemic model for how one pursues scientific inquiry is needed; otherwise, there may be sufficient reasons to doubt not only the conclusions of the scientific inquiry but as well as the pool of data, which must be assessed appropriately.  The scientist is more than welcome to pursue an empiricist model for his epistemology, though strict [naturalistic] empiricism is not very robust, but it must have certain allowances for metaphysical import—perhaps more rationalistic.

I believe the best way to construct a robust epistemology and scientific method is to be a realist.  What I mean by this is that the external reality is how it appears to be to an observer making an epistemic inquiry, the measurements from science accurately depicts reality.  This is in contrast to instrumentalism/anti-realism, which suggests that our inquiry of the world, scientifically, do not accurately depict reality but as useful fictions.  An instrumentalist is more concerned about data fitting theories and predictions than with an accurate depiction of reality.

For the scientific realist, the ontology of the world determines one’s epistemology.  They congruently correspond.  It is important to note the order of entailment.  Antecedently, reality determines our epistemology. 

November 8th, 2013

The Metaphysical Multiverse

by Max Andrews

Regularity theory (RT) attempts to account for laws in a descriptive manner contra the necessitarian position (NT), which expresses the laws of nature as nomic necessity.  According to the RT the fundamental regularities are brute facts; they neither have nor require an explanation.  Regularity theorists attempt to formulate laws and theories in a language where the connectives are all truth functional.  Thus, each law is expressed with a universal quantifier as in [(x) (Px ⊃ Qx)].[1]  The NT states that there are metaphysical connections of necessity in the world that ground and explain the most fundamental regularities.  Necessitarian theorists usually use the word must to express this connection.[2]  Thus, NT maintains must-statements are not adequately captured by is-statements (must ≠ is, or certain facts are unaccounted for).[3]

October 6th, 2013

Cosmic Darwinism: Evolving Laws of Nature?

by Max Andrews

The following are a few questions raised in light of Rupert Sheldrake’s The Science Delusion: Freeing The Spirit Of Enquiry. 

The argument that he advances in the chapter involves something he calls ‘habits’, which are “a kind of memory inherent in nature”. (From what I understand, he has also advanced this within a theory of ‘morphic resonance’ in his other published works.) Putting aside his case for these ‘habits’, three questions that he poses to materialists at the end of the chapter caught my eye:

1) If the laws of nature existed before the Big Bang, and governed the Big Bang from its first instant, where were they?

2) If the laws and constants of nature all came into being at the moment of the Big Bang, how does the universe remember them? Where are they ‘imprinted’?

3) How do you know that the laws of nature are fixed and not evolutionary?

July 31st, 2013

Q&A 30: Does Ken Ham Preach Heresy?

by Max Andrews

Q&A GraphicQuestion:

Max:

My final e-mail about YE matters:

I wrote the following to the elders I correspond with at [a church]*. They replied that heresy was probably too strong a word to apply to Ken Ham. I’m not sure I’m persuaded.

June 9th, 2013

The Philosophy of Science Directory

by Max Andrews

This is a compilation of posts, which focus on the philosophy of science. These posts will cover a broad spectrum within the philosophy of science ranging from multiverse scenarios, scientific theory, epistemology, and metaphysics.

  1. MA Philosophy Thesis: “The Fine-Tuning of Nomic Behavior in Multiverse Scenarios”
  2. Natural Law and Scientific Explanation
  3. Science and Efficient Causation
  4. Which Comes First, Philosophy or Science?
  5. The Postulates of Special Relativity
  6. There’s No Such Thing as Creation Science–There’s Just Science
  7. Time Travel and Bilking Arguments
  8. “It’s Just a Theory”–What’s a Scientific Theory?
  9. Exceptions to a Finite Universe
  10. Teleology in Science
  11. Duhemian Science
  12. The Relationship Between Philosophy and Science
  13. The History of the Multiverse and the Philosophy of Science
  14. Where’s the Line of Demarcation Between Science and Pseudoscience?
  15. Miracles and the Modern Worldview
  16. Mass-Density Link Simpliciter
  17. Scientific Nihilism
  18. Q&A 10: The Problem of Defining Science
  19. Q&A 6: Scientism and Inference to the Best Explanation
  20. The Quantum Universe and the Universal Wave Function
  21. The History and Macro-Ontology of the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Physics
    read more »

May 27th, 2013

Q&A 24: Induction, Deduction, and Falsifiability

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hello Max,

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.

Answer:

Hi Steven!

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.

March 11th, 2013

Q&A 14: Why Don’t the Laws of Nature Evolve?

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hey, Max.

I’ve just started reading Rupert Sheldrake’s The Science Delusion: Freeing The Spirit Of Enquiry and came across three questions about the laws of nature.

In Chapter 3, Sheldrake begins by saying:
“Most scientists take it for granted that the laws of nature are fixed.”
He then leads on to this question:
“If everything else evolves, why don’t the laws of nature evolve along with nature?”
The argument that he advances in the chapter involves something he calls ‘habits’, which are “a kind of memory inherent in nature”. (From what I understand, he has also advanced this within a theory of ‘morphic resonance’ in his other published works.) Putting aside his case for these ‘habits’, three questions that he poses to materialists at the end of the chapter caught my eye:
1) If the laws of nature existed before the Big Bang, and governed the Big Bang from its first instant, where were they?
2) If the laws and constants of nature all came into being at the moment of the Big Bang, how does the universe remember them? Where are they ‘imprinted’?
3) How do you know that the laws of nature are fixed and not evolutionary?
Although I can hear the materialists cry that these questions are not even wrong, I wondered what you thought about them.
Best Wishes,
Mark Hawker (UK)
read more »

February 11th, 2013

Q&A 10: The Problem of Defining Science

by Max Andrews

thQuestion:

I’m not grasping the foundations of some claims in your paper “What’s Science…..”  I realize, or think I realize, that you are expanding on concepts relating to the subject matter as introduced by other philosophers.  Choosing to accept Augustinian Science as inclusive of metaphysical presuppositions is in and of itself not scientific, as there is no way to reliably ascertain a metaphysical construct relative to a physical construct.  How can you demonstrate any kind of cause and effect?  In addition, some things that were assumed to be metaphysical are now known to be physical as a result of rigorous scientific analysis.  I’m referring to our ability to artificially manipulate cognition during neurosurgery in coordination with fMRI and other scanning resources. If I’m misreading please let me know. Can you provide examples of scientific theories that are not founded in empiricism? How can metaphysical evidence be reliable when it is not falsifiable? But is there an example of scientific theories that are not falsifiable?  I can’t think of any. I’m not suggesting that a pseudoscientific claim cannot be falsifiable, but I don’t see how a theory that is based on data accumulation, investigation, analysis, review and verification can be defined as unfalsifiable.  It would render the review process inconsequential. Theories that are falsifiable promote and require continued investigation as no theories are an end in themselves.  The reason I bring this is because your article says that falsifiability is not required…and I don’t see how that is in fact conclusive. Is there a specific definition of science that you are basing your views on?
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January 14th, 2013

What’s Science and What’s Not Science?

by Max Andrews

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.

January 14th, 2013

Q&A 6: Scientism and Inference to the Best Explanation

by Max Andrews

Q&A GraphicQuestion:

Max,

I want to run something by you to get your opinion.  The KCA and fine-tuning arguments are presented as philosophical/logical arguments with some scientific premises.  Some skeptics that don’t like philosophy will dismiss it and appeal to scientism.

But if we look at something like the detection and declaration of black holes, aren’t they doing the same things?  They aren’t looking at direct observation but instead looking at effects and making inferences to the best explanation for the cause.  If that is accepted as science then the KCA and the fine-tuning arguments should be as well.

I’m not interested in declaring the KCA and fine-tuning to be science but I’m thinking that an analogy such as this might be useful when a skeptic cries god-of-the-gap.

Bill, USA