Philosphy of Science



Assignment 1.

Please download copies of the following group of articles from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the subjects of realism, anti-realism and scientific revolutions. From this point of the course onward, you are to read these articles and comment on them on an ongoing basis relating the content of these articles to the material in the Student Lecture Material and in the book by Kuhn. At least four separate page length comments should be submitted by each student during the semester. This Forum is worth 20% of the course grade. Note these essays are difficult. Read them carefully. I do not expect anyone to understand all of the details. I want you to have a basic grasp of them.

Questions to address:

What is realism and anti-realism in the philosophy of science. Present detailed reasoning and arguments of at least four distinct views on whether we can properly say that there are scientific revolutions.

Present Kuhn’s evidence for scientific revolutions and explain in detail how some others support his view and how some others oppose his view.

Present and summarize a current scientific topic of interest to you. Discuss whether realism, and anti-realism philosophical positions are relevant to that scientific topic.

Discuss whether the concept of scieintific revolutions is relevant to that scientific topic. .

Present and summarize a SECOND current scientific topic of interest to you. Discuss whether realism, and anti-realism philosophical positions are relevant to that scientific topic. Discuss whether the concept of scieintific revolutions is relevant to that SECOND scientific topic. .










Assignment 2:

1) Please read Kuhn Ch. 13 and the Postscript. Find 5 major positions articulated in the Postscript and compare these with the corresponding statements Kuhn made in the body of the book, Chapters 1 to 13. Is he clarifying these points? Is he expanding on them? Is he weakening his claims? Is he backtracking? Is he obfuscating? Does his major thesis hold up given what he says in his postscript? Which issues that are unclear in the text end up being explained fully and convincingly in the Postscript. Which of Kuhn’s Postscript positions make his thesis less convincing? What is your overall assessment of Kuhn’s thesis following your reading of his Postscript?

Additional question:

1) Granted Einstein was a genius and produced some highly successful theories, but it would be hard to argue that he was incomparably greater than all other 20th century scientists. Other scientists have achieved household name status (Darwin, Freud) but none of them approach his reputation for genius. What was there about our society or about Einstein that elevated him to such a prominent cultural position?








Assignment 3:

Please read Kuhn Ch. 11 and 12, if you have not already done so. Discuss the issues in these chapters. Comment on any of sections 9- and 10- material in the Student Lecture Material. Please start reading Kuhn’s postscript. I will ask in Discussion Forum, 10 whether and, if so, to what extent Kuhn backtracks in his postscript from the main tenets of his book.

1) Note the anomaly of Radium’s heat release. Curie does suggest relaxing the paradigmatic rule of conservation of to solve the problem of Radium’s heat. Some modern scientist suggest doing the same thing to solve certain problems in Cosmology. Nevertheless, such suggestions usually only come after an acute crisis. Marie would have been very early, in fact she was premature, to make such a suggestion. Einstein solved this problem with his E=mc2 equation. Regarding the Curie paper, how do we react today to the discovery of a previously unknown substance/radiation in our midst? The Century magazine wasn’t Scientific American or even Popular Science, and yet its audience was presumably interested in what the leading scientist of the day had to say about her work. Imagine if American felt that way today. Why don’t they? Or do they?

2) The articles on gender bias should come as no surprise. Studies have long shown that grading papers by elementary school teachers is biased by the name on the top of the papers. Unfortunately the peer-review process involves knowing who the scientist is, what the quality of their previous work is etc. Just hiding the names, probably isn’t good enough anyway. Authors quote extensively from the previous work in their labs and a good guess can usually be made about the author by someone in the field. Short of a quota system, what can be done to mitigate this (unintentional?) bias?







Assignment 4:

Understand the following terms, using the information you have learned so far in the course: Please give detailed answers

a) convective cooling b) data support for multiple hypothesis c) modeled data and observational data d) types of data used e) uncertainty in data Summarize the importance of these five issues. Is the PPT presenting valid points? Is the analysis complete? Has the author reliably presented the subject or is she concealing bias?

2) Read the abstracts and try to understand the gist (and some but not all of the technical details) of the two paper incuded in the package on scientific conclusions in the presence of uncertainty. Of the two scientific papers, one,”Possible artifacts of date biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus,” suggests temperatures have been underestimated and one, “Antarctic Ice,” suggests that antarctic ice growth has been underestimated. Are you convinced? Why?

3) Evaluate the paper titled, “Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community.” The paper states: Vested interests and political agents have long opposed political or regulatory action in response to climate change by appealing to scientific uncertainty. Here we examine the effect of such contrarian talking points on the scientific community itself. Are you convinced? Why?

4) Is Kuhn’s concept of “paradigms” relevant to the above tasks? How?

5) Discuss the terms “charisma” that was featured in the Uncertainty in Climate Science PPT and the term “seepage” used in the paper “Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community” Are these appropriate terms to be used in the Uncertainty in Climate Science PPT and in the paper? Do these two items meet standards of scientific inquiry that you feel are important to arrive at conclusions.


6) Present your own views on how good our climate science is and how good our public discussion and policy making on climate science are? Does the information presented in the four items in the Course Document package for this Discussion Forum change your view in any way? How?


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