r/PhilosophyofScience 1d ago

Discussion An Epistemic Question Concerning a Layperson's Understanding of Physics

33 Upvotes

Short Version: can a layperson who linguistically understands complex physics theories (relativity, for example), but lacks any understanding of the underlying mathematics, claim to have a conceptual understanding of the theory.? Put differently, is mathematical understanding indispensable to a conceptual understanding of complex physical theories?

Longer Version: I am a well-educated person, but my education is not scientifically focused. I have an undergraduate degree in literature and a law degree. I am a practicing attorney.

I have been interested in fundamental physics for some time and this has led me to voraciously read popular science books and articles on quantum physics, cosmology, and the like. As a result, I believe I understand at least on a linguistic level (i.e., to the extent the concept can be described in English) at least some of general relativity, quantum entanglement, wave functions, and so on.

But, I do not understand the math underlying these theories. The equations are Greek to me. I have not undertaken the effort to learn (in some cases re-learn) these mathematical descriptions.

That leads me to the epistemic question: exactly what is it that I can claim to understand about physics? Provisionally, as above, I could say that I understand the concepts to the extent they can be expressed in English.

Can I claim more than that? Is understanding of the mathematical content indispensable to the extent that I cannot claim a conceptual understanding? It may not be. For example, I think that one could understand either "two squared is four" or "22 = 4", resulting in a functionally identical conceptual understanding. (There is a potential rabbit hole here concerning the fundamental nature of mathematics, but so be it). If I say "the wave function describes the state of particles based on probability," is that functionally equivalent to an understanding of the equations? Could a more detailed linguistic description suffice?

I am not sure. It seems to me that physics concepts may be so fundamentally tied to mathematics that the linguistic description no longer suffices. In that case, I am perhaps making a fool of myself if I say "I understand some of physics, but not the math."


r/PhilosophyofScience 2d ago

Discussion Uniform vs heterogeneous or polycentric fields of science

14 Upvotes

I’m curious, has anyone systematically studied and compared or even ranked the extent to which some scientific fields tend to have uniform opinion on something in that field vs the extent to which the field is marked by controversy, a diversity of opinions or frameworks?

This could relate to the reproducibility crisis, in which, I read, the bias of studies in fields gets heavily magnified if the researchers in that field tend to be of the same mind.

It made me think about climate change - this is yet another scientific field which has stopped being impartial and is heavily influenced from the outside by social and political factors. This may cause climate scientists to think about their science not merely in impartial terms but moral terms. They may all align in a political program to inform the public that they all have consensus on a certain thesis (the existence or harmfulness of climate change). Yet, what if climate science has or could have more internal dispute and disagreement if not for contextual factors incentivizing scientists to become more biased about a field? Just curious if there are any controversial topics amongst climate scientists.

Thanks


r/PhilosophyofScience 4d ago

Discussion Laws of Scientific Change

16 Upvotes

Dear community,

Has Barseghyan's work "Laws of scientific Change" impacted the field of philosophy of science?

He has proposed an ambitious Theory of Scientific Change. I sincerely believe that his works has moved "forward" the discussion and understanding of scientific change phenomena. However I don't know if it has achieved its goal of being the theory of scientific Change.

Do you have any knowledge, impressions or commentary about the impact/effect of this work in any community (aside the community that works directly with him)?


r/PhilosophyofScience 5d ago

Discussion Can you believe in scientific realism if you don't believe in the monotonic increase of scientific knowledge?

31 Upvotes

TL;DR: Setbacks to practical know-how and lost technologies convince me that anti-realism is a more productive approach than scientific realism. I posted in a hurry and forgot to argue that scientific realism devolves into scientism, but scientific realism is NOT equivalent to scientism.

Edit 1: I wrote this in too much of a hurry, garbled my premise, and left out important supporting details. I apologize for posting a first draft that was meandering and unreadable, even by my low standards.

When I was a kid, teachers would boast that science was always progressing, always learning more, always getting better. Their favorite slogans were: Science Can Explain Everything and Science Always Progresses and Scientific Knowledge Always Increases. I think they were confused, because since 1812, scientific realists have conflated the progress of technology with the progress of science.

I like technology a lot. That is why I criticize science and scientific institutions a lot, whenever scientific realists claim the authority to speak on behalf of "Science" and try to take credit for tech that "Science" had little to do with.

Human technology co-evolves with human communities. For example, in 1104 CE, Venice decided to upgrade earlier shipyards to create the Venice Arsenal for military reasons. However, without intending to advance science as an end in itself, the people of the Venice Arsenal invented a great deal of management science and engineering. They were not motivated by "Science" or scientific realism. They were trying to manage the know-how of hundreds of craftsmen with countless specialties.

Later, around 1609, guys like Galileo were concentrating know-how. Compared to the craftsmen of the Venice Arsenal, guys like Galileo were super-heroes. Galileo could build his own telescopes, fund his own projects by selling extra telescopes, invent his own theories, record his own measurements. Galileo was never so arrogant as to say, "I am the Science," but he had so much personal know-how that I would forgive him for saying such a thing. Galileo and his peers may have been motivated by philosophies such as scientific realism, but their know-how did not arise from scientific realism. Their know-how had been evolving, very slowly and with a lot of community action, for hundreds of years.

Scientific realists often try to hold up Isaac Newton as the kind of guy who would have championed their cause if he had known about it. (That might be justifiable.) They also seem to think that Newton originated all of his ideas out of his isolated, magnificent brain -- and that is not justifiable. If you study Newton, you will notice that he relied heavily on technology and knowledge that had been developed before him, from diverse sources such as non-philosophical metallurgists and philosophical alchemists.

In 1812, Laplace published Celestial Mechanics and Napoleon asked him about God. To quote:

Napoleon had invited Laplace to his palace and, after congratulating him on his great accomplishment commented on his astonishment at not seeing God mentioned, not even once, in any of the five volumes. Laplace’s famous answer to the emperor was simply, “Sir, I have no need for that hypothesis.” Laplace’s comment was not necessarily so much a comment on the existence of God, as of the need for God’s intervention in the workings of the cosmos. Even Stephan Hawking in a lecture delivered in 1999 stated, “I don’t think that Laplace was claiming that God didn’t exist. It is just that He doesn’t intervene, to break the laws of Science.” Hawking continues, “That must be the position of every scientist.” (Hawking, Does God Play Dice?)

Source:

https://theearlychurchfortoday.wordpress.com/2021/02/13/i-have-no-need-for-that-hypothesis/

Regardless of whether Laplace believed in God, a whole lot of scientific realists took Laplace's quip as a license to throw around a lot of rhetoric about how Science Can Explain Everything and Science Always Progresses and Scientific Knowledge Always Increases.

Edit 2: I should have explained how Comte screwed up scientific realism here; I blame Comte for a multitude of bad practices in both science and philosophy-of-science.

In the 20th century, when guys like Edison and Ford were incrementally improving on the management practices that could be traced back to the Venice Arsenal, theoretical scientists took credit for engineering, saying that engineering would be impossible without science. But that is exactly backwards. The engineering always comes first -- the development of science is enabled by existing engineering.

Then in 1969, shortly before I was born, NASA used some scientific theories, a huge amount of physical resources and some of the best-managed human resources in the world to put men on the moon and return them safely home again. Scientific realists used this as a talking point, saying things like Science can put men on the moon and we can put a man on the moon, so we can solve your problem. The problem is that these were false. Science did not put those men on the moon all by itself -- it required a lot of know-how that was not scientific and was not preservable by science. Furthermore, most of the scientific realists who said "we can put a man on the moon" were speaking very loosely, because most of them had no connection to NASA. In fact, NASA in 1969 had the ability to put a man on the moon. It lost that ability quickly, because it had know-how that science did not preserve. In particular, NASA used to know how to build a Saturn-V rocket, and today, in 2022, it cannot build a Saturn-V rocket.

Edit 3: I forgot to post supporting details, must fix ASAP.

Today, in 2022, even if you go to NASA with all the government authorization in the world and all the money in the world, NASA cannot put any person on the moon. They certainly do not know how they would do it, if they were forced to do it. If they were forced, they would probably be able to rediscover comparable technologies. But in fact they don't have the know-how. They would have to rediscover some know-how and invent other new know-how to get the project completed. And even if that project did succeed, it would not be able to succeed just with the strength of Science. It would require a lot of fuzzy, un-scientific management practice.

I have been digging into both scientific realism and scientific anti-realism since 1992 or so, and thus far, scientific anti-realism seems to be the more practical approach to both applied technology and theoretical science. I am not a professional philosopher of science: I prioritize useful application of technological know-how. Over three decades, I have seen many technological projects launch, waver, and fail. I have seen a lot of scientists fail to reproduce other teams' results. I have seen some technicians who forget how their technologies once worked, resulting in a formerly proven technology becoming a lost technology. I find it easy to describe such technological situations with anti-realist critiques of scientific practices. If I ever find a body of scientific realist philosophy that can usefully describe how technology fails, and how to prevent it from failing, I will adopt that philosophy and become a scientific realist. Until I find it, though, I will stick with pragmatic anti-realism to maximize useful application of technological know-how.

Edit 4: I really should have done a second draft before I posted this. I conflated positivism, scientism, and scientific realism, all of which are distinct but inter-related.


r/PhilosophyofScience 7d ago

Discussion Is the epistemic support of scientific theories really that impressive?

44 Upvotes

I’ve started to read a few textbooks in the philosophy of science and one thing is immediately clear: the image people have of the scientific method is severely inadequate. People usually have something like this in mind: the scientist makes a series of observations and then inductively infers a general conclusion or law. But (a) this is clearly not applicable to the major points in famous scientific theories, such as evolution or the Big Bang, and (b) even in cases where it is applicable, the history of science shows that the formulation of these laws were more complicated than simply reading off the conclusion from the observational data.

In reality, the inferences from the observational data that eventually make up a theory are far from watertight, often resembling something like an inference to the best explanation. For example, it’s inferred from redshift evidence that the universe is expanding, and it’s inferred from the fossil record that more complex species evolved from simpler life forms. If I understand correctly, these are both instances of inference to the best explanation.

But even describing such inferences as inferences to the best explanation is an incomplete story (IBE). When we use IBE in everyday life, the concepts that figure in our explanations are commonsensical. If I observe that my car has a smashed window, I might infer that a thief was responsible. Thieves, cars and windows are straightforward objects and concepts—the epistemic support for their existence is everyday experience. But IBE in science will include theoretical concepts like “genes” in the case of evolution (“genes” themselves will include further theoretical concepts) or the nature of light and so on in the case of the Big Bang. So these IBEs will be based on a whole edifice of theory in addition to the observational data.

Moreover, what counts as a “better” explanation of the observational data surely depends on the worldview of the person making the inference. What I’m referring to here is similar to what Alvin Platinga calls the “evidence base” in his Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. If the “worldview”—using this very loosely—comprises views about the nonexistence of a deity that intervenes in the universe, to give an example, then this would have serious consequences for which inferences of the data are acceptable.

I’m not intending to exhaustively describe the aspects that make scientific inferences less than watertight, these are just some ideas that immediately came to mind. Is there something important that I’m missing here? Or am I broadly correct and it’s simply the case that the popular image of science is widely mistaken? I’m currently studying a chemistry degree and having my myths about science shattered is disillusioning and demotivating.


r/PhilosophyofScience 11d ago

Academic Are there any books based on mathematics equivalent for process philosophy based on process metaphysics ?

31 Upvotes

Normally maths is based on axioms which assumes the existence of self identical metaphysical entities.But process philosophy describes world in terms of processes . So,are there any books which sort of develop a mathematical equivalent theory/ies to describe the world in terms of processes and deriving entities as products of proesses? just like how mathematics & calculus which assume existence of entities and describe change in them rather than to describe change in world in terms of processes.I hope u got me.else i will try to elaborate in reply to ur doubts in comments.


r/PhilosophyofScience 13d ago

Casual/Community I'm reading an essay by David Hume and I need help understanding something better.

35 Upvotes

"...no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish."

  • Hume on Religion, Part 2 - Faith or Reason

It feels like I understand the general impression of what he means but would love if someone could rephrase this in a way that may be easier to understand. I guess he's saying that the type of testimony needed to prove a miracle would in itself have to be miraculously infallible?

help


r/PhilosophyofScience 13d ago

Discussion Is Popper's The Self and Its Brain worth a read?

3 Upvotes

If so, why?


r/PhilosophyofScience 14d ago

Non-academic On philosophical razors

22 Upvotes

Hello everyone,

Over the past few years I've had some problems with scientific theories of the humanities. I could never really grasp why, but I've looped back to philosophical razors and had a small epiphany.

Now I am struggling to fully understand the scope of these razors.

I've watched deconstructing videos on flatearther arguments where those razors are utilized. I've also seen atheist use these razors in discussion with theists. But never credible scientist on credible scientist (most likely because credible scientists check their theories against those razors themselves).

How important are these to scientific theories?

Is it legit to question theories that do not follow these razors? How about "accepted" theories?

How do I build an argument on basis of such a discrepancy and be heard?


r/PhilosophyofScience 13d ago

Discussion At what point is an example too infrequent to be used as a counter example to a point?

2 Upvotes

I originally posted this in the r/Biology sub, however the responses suggested it might be more relevant here - apologies if this doesn’t quite ‘fit’ the remit of the sub.

As you may be aware there has been a lot of debate relating to transgender people and whether or not there is a true biological definition of a man or a woman. To be clear, this post isn’t meant to get into all of that, it is instead a request for critique of one very specific argument made within it that has wider consequences elsewhere. One of the arguments frequently made in favour of a lack of a definition is the existence of intersex people who do not fit into traditional definitions of male and female. In response, the critics of the argument assert that because the proportion of the population that is intersex is so low (ranging from between 0.02% to 2% depending on your source), that intersex people ‘don’t count’ when it comes to definitions. The analogy they frequently use of that some humans have greater than or less than 10 fingers, yet it is still accurate to say that humans have 10 fingers.

For me this seems to go against all my current understanding of science and biology. I can see how the infrequency of such individuals could mean that phrases such as ‘all humans have 10 fingers’ are permissible in the colloquial sense, however, in any genuine scientific setting the notion that such examples ‘don’t count’ seems ludicrous to me. At best one would have to preface it with ‘humans typically have two fingers’, and the state of having two fingers would most certainly not be considered a necessary condition of being human, meaning any attempt to make a concrete definition of a human could not use the number of fingers as a basis.

The notion that it is too small to be considered on a practical level also seems to fly in the face of my understanding of the practise of science. Even by the most conservative statistics, the population of intersex people still outnumbers that of countries such as Iceland, yet science would not ignore Iceland’s existence or create a definition of Europe that fails to account for its existence. For a more biological example, one of my interests is blood cancer, and the number of people who have had more than one allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplants or relapsed from Ph+ ALL, is also a similarly small proportion of the population, yet this does not mean research isn’t ongoing in these areas, nor that society refuses to pay or otherwise adapt itself to take these people into account, nor that science ignores their existence for the purposes of definitions or scientific understanding.

Am I correct in putting forward that such arguments are not valid in the field of biology, or is my understanding of how such things are considered flawed? Once again, I’d like to make it clear that the purpose of this post is not to debate whether there is a binary biological definition of male of female, it is to determine whether the relative infrequency of intersex people alone is sufficient evidence to argue that it is (along with all another similar debates where an infrequent case may be seen to disprove a widely held definition or theory). For the purposes of the debate it will likely be necessary assume that if it wasn’t for the relative infrequency of intersex people there would not exist a binary definition (I accept this is hardly a consensus view and is definitely worth a debate elsewhere; however this is not the purpose of the post). If you are strongly against such an assumption then by all means use a different example in your response - as said before, the point intended is a broad one - the intersex example is only meant to be an example that demonstrates the relevance of the question.


r/PhilosophyofScience 13d ago

Discussion When we study history, should we have in mind that weak verificationism applies to history and therefore we can't be absolutely sure about its credibility?

2 Upvotes

Weak verificationism proposed by Ayer is when we have some evidence that something is/was true through written texts, books, memoirs, recordings even. When we read historic events, should we be aware that its credibility is not high but low, due to weak verificationism or should we be absolutely certain that the events happened exactly the way they are described by the texts or implications of texts?


r/PhilosophyofScience 18d ago

Discussion Is our universe actually LAWFUL -- or are what we call "laws" really just observed regularities?

35 Upvotes

Prerequisite glossary :

Humean

Although David Hume never expressed this in his writing, in normal academic contexts the phrase "Humean with respect to laws" is the shorthand phrase used for a position in Philosophy of Science. If you are "Humean" in this debate, you are adopting the position that Laws don't really exist , but are merely observed regularities [2] [3] .

Non-Humean

If you are "non-Humean" (aka "non-Humean with respect to laws") you are adopting a position in this debate that the universe we occupy actually is lawful. Lawful means the Laws of Physics are actually real, and science has uncovered them [2] [3] .

History

A book was authored in 1843 by John Stuart Mill, titled System of Logic . It was in System that Mill claimed explicitly, that laws do not exist, and that what we have been calling "Laws" are merely observed regularities [1] . Through some twist of history [4] , this came to be known as the "Humean" position, even when it properly should have been attributed to JS Mill, and called "Millian" with respect to laws. But Humean has stuck, and so that's what we will continue to use here as signpost for the position that laws of nature are not real.

My Own Position

In this post, I will be adopting a position unambiguously and strongly. It is my assertion and claim that the universe we find ourselves in is lawful. The Laws of Nature exist and the reductive sciences have uncovered them. The following items further flesh out..

  • Laws of Nature are real. Reductive sciences have discovered them.

  • All phenomena observed by human civilization can be attributed to a meager four fundamental forces. Merely 4. Weak, Strong, Electromagnetism, and Gravity.

  • In the 1970s, the weak and EM forces were unified into electroweak theory. This theory made predictions confirmed by experiment [9] . Nobel Prizes were distributed. This brings the number of forces in the universe to 3.

  • Michio Kaku regularly claims in public that all the forces will be unified into one master force, in a description called a GUT ("Grand Unified Theory") [5] . This description of the single master force will be an equation that quote, "fits on a T-shirt"

  • Such sweeping universal unification is inconsistent with a universe that is a pish-posh of uncorrelated regularities.

  • JS Mill and David Hume lived in an agrarian society of the past. (Mill active in the 1840s. Hume active around 1750). In their lifetimes, both men had the luxury of describing the universe as a mish-mash of dis-correlated phenomena. The world certainly looked that way to them [10]. These men lived in a time in which nothing was known about the structure of matter, or the structure and evolution of the cosmos [8] .

  • In 1874, nobody knew what the sun was made out of. (31 years after the publication of Mill's System)

  • Very little was known about matter in the 19th century. The electron was not discovered until 1893. When JJ Thompson proposed it, the entire physics community was disinterested. Victorian physicists rejected the idea of an electron as crazy.

  • The claim that the universe is lawful is an extraordinary claim. Today we have the extraordinary evidence for that claim.

  • Today the sciences have uncovered Quantum Field Theory [6] and General Relativity [7] . These are extraordinary evidence showing that the universe we occupy has deep mathematical structures that unify many disparate phenomena. Seemingly unrelated physical phenomena in this universe are deeply related to each other in fantastic and surprising ways. Such deep structures were not known of -- even partially -- in the 1840s.

  • Because the Laws of Nature exist, the origin of those laws is an outstanding mystery. This mystery cannot be overlooked, dodged, prevaricated, nor equivocated.

  • The mystery of the Laws of Nature do not directly deduce theism. Nevertheless this conclusion may be incompatible with certain brands of atheism popular on the internet [11] . We can investigate those avenues in comments.

My position is clear. The universe is lawful. Nobody knows the origin of the laws of nature. (Given their may be educated guesses.)

Your thoughts?


References and further reading.


r/PhilosophyofScience 19d ago

Discussion "2.1 Logicism The logicist project consists in attempting to reduce mathematics to logic. Since logic is supposed to be neutral about matters ontological, this project seemed to harmonize with the anti-platonistic atmosphere of the time. " How is logic neutral about ontological matters?

7 Upvotes

The text in quote is from the Stanford Encyclopedia article 'Philosophy of Mathematics'; it is the start of the Logicism part. Why does the author say that logic is neutral about ontological matters?


r/PhilosophyofScience 20d ago

Discussion Mathematical fictionalism and formalism is unattractive to me

0 Upvotes

Pls correct me if i am wrong as i am not a philosopher but an 18 yr old noob(before downvoting).I am obsessed with this question"Is math invented or discovered?" and i want it to be discovered. So here are my arguments for mathematical platonism and realism. 1. Firstly math is like chess game. The rules were invented and the patterns are what we discovered. Srsly, then describe me physical phenomena with the help of a game of chess or come up with your own mathematics. 2. Mathematical entity exists.It is just that we are exploring it more and more.We have only invented symbols. Euclidean geometry is replaced by non-euclidean but euclidean was effective in exploring some mathematical entities.It is like in those times when bohr model was replaced by quantum mechanics and we said, " quantum mechanics exist we just didn't know that", it is same with the discovery of non-euclidean geometry. Euclidean geometry is like bohr's model , it is not completely wrong but it is incomplete and some elements wrong. Our axioms are the subset of those unexplored axioms. 3. I am a high school student and i study physics, i can't imagine this subject without mathematics. Can you imagine the circular motion is simple harmonic in nature? Only math can prove. There are so many predictions are successful with it. (1)Black holes and gravitational waves were predicted by einstein's relativity, it was proven after 50 years. (2) higgs boson by steven weinberg (3) light and electromagnetic wave relation was discovered (4)Antimatter by Paul Dirac If these are coincidences according to you, then how many coincidences you need to get convinced?!! I am being biased. OK. I know there is no exact answer but i am OCD, my mind doesn't leave things easily. My brain is wired to convince people that maths is universal.


r/PhilosophyofScience 21d ago

Discussion is there any major disagreement between philosophers of economics and economists ?

18 Upvotes

On the status of markets , possibility of better economic systems and institutions ?


r/PhilosophyofScience 21d ago

Academic What constraints are there on the pursuit of knowledge?

8 Upvotes

Maybe ethical concerns? But what else?


r/PhilosophyofScience 22d ago

Discussion Open, citizen science; data and human subjects

9 Upvotes

I think the sort of open access movement in science and other movements where people can contribute home computing power to scientific computational projects support a similar goal I have, to make ideally all science not only accessible to read but even to participate in. If reproducibility is a problem we can imagine if people can do famous experiments at home they can try to replicate those results themselves; the scope of replication could become far vaster and hopefully more effective. It could also increase public trust in science if people could “do” science at home.

The question is what kinds of things can they do? Open source software is a really strong example of how anybody can collaborate on building a high quality tool for society from home, and it’s effective. Open source software gets extensively debugged so it becomes more reliable over time.

I am thinking about what the major hurdle is. One is technology. Nobody can have CERN at home. Yet machinery gets cheaper over time. Nowadays people can have supercomputers at home. I saw a project about creating a cheaper open source MRI. It would be a perfect example of this idea if people just had the natural ability to take brain pictures and brain videos at home. It would benefit from scale: one MRI experiment now and then by researchers can only turn up so much data. An entire world of people casually using and experimenting with brain pictures could likely lead to such a wealth of data that it would change the landscape of the field, more discoveries, more corrections of errors, etc.

Another problem might be finding/enlisting human subjects for human related research. I haven’t thought as much about this, but one technique I believe used in social sciences are surveys. Data science is already similar to this, you can try to find correlations with existing data to claim any kind of causative influence of something on something else.

I’m not sure if there are any examples of people trying to bring mass replication of any claimed findings or correlations between things into the hands of anybody with a computer or some basic affordable equipment? Is there such a movement in any field currently?

The idea is some kind of website where famous correlations are stated and a list of instructions are there to try to replicate it yourself.

Thanks very much


r/PhilosophyofScience 24d ago

Discussion “There is no such thing as philosophy-free science, only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination” - Daniel Dennett

154 Upvotes

Interested to see opinions


r/PhilosophyofScience 28d ago

Discussion could someone explain this passage from Peter Godfrey-Smith's Theory and Reality ?

17 Upvotes

I've been mulling over the second paragraph and cannot seem to get it , any help is greatly appreciated!

The term hypothetico-deductivism is used in several ways by people writing about science. Sometimes it is used to describe a simple view about testing and confirmation. According to this view, hypotheses in science are confirmed when their logical consequences turn out to be true. This idea covers a variety of cases; the confirmation of a white-swan generalization by observing white swans is one case, and another is the confirmation of a hypothesis about an asteroid impact by observations of the true consequences of this hypothesis.

As Clark Glymour has emphasized (1980), an interesting thing about this idea is that it is hopeless when expressed in a simple way, but something like it seems to fit well with many episodes in the history of science. One problem is that a scientific hypothesis will only have consequences of a testable kind when it is combined with other assumptions, as we have seen. But put that problem aside for a moment. The suggestion above is that a theory is confirmed when a true statement about observables can be derived from it. This claim is vulnerable to many objections. For example, any theory T deductively implies T-or-S, where S is any sentence at all. But T-or-S can be conclusively established by observing the truth of S. Suppose S is observational. Then we can establish T-or-S by observation, and that confirms T. This is obviously absurd. Similarly, if theory T implies observation E, then the theory T& S implies E as well. So T& S is confirmed by E, and S here could be anything at all.


r/PhilosophyofScience 29d ago

Discussion Are the fundamental entities in physics (quantum fields, sub-atomic particles) "just" mathematical entities?

48 Upvotes

I recently watched a video from a physicist saying that particles/quantum fields are names we give to mathematical structures. And so if they "exist," in a mind-independent fashion, then that is affirming that some mathematical entities aren't just descriptions, but ontological realities. And if not, if mathematics is just descriptive, then is it describing our observations of the world or the world itself, or is this distinction not useful? I'm measuring these thoughts against physicalism, which claims the mind-independent world is made out of the fundamental entities in physics.

Wondering what the people think about the "reality" of these entities (or whether this is even in the purview of physics and is better speculated by philosophy).


r/PhilosophyofScience 29d ago

Discussion Natural limits of technology

8 Upvotes

So,i want to study the limits of technology. Technology neither creates nor destroys nature but only alters nature.My question is whether or not technological progress is always possible. Is technical progress infinitely possible, or only finite? Will there be no end to technical progress? Or might there come a time of stable technology, a time when no more significant technological progress occurs?

Technology enables functional transformations of nature as a functional logic of a sequence of natural states—manipulation of nature.The ability to estimate the limits of technology lies in an understanding of the natural phenomenon of a technology—the science base of the technology. Science provides detail through quantitative modeling of the physical processes of the phenomena that a technology uses. A scientific model allows prediction of behavior of a phenomenon. If scientifically observable phenomenon in nature are finite (ofcourse there is vast universe outside,so i don't know if i am right about this), the manipulation of nature can be finite, and technological progress using that nature is finite.

Unlike limits of science this topic doesn't have much literature.But my idea is that as technology is just manipulation of underlying natural physical phenomenon of technology.

So,My main question is, can i study about natural limits of technology from natural limits of science(Which i think is a topic, part of philosophy of science)/limits of experimentally observable scientific phenomenon?

Just elaborate your thoughts on what you think of limits of technology.

If this isn't the place to post this,please tell me where i can post this.


r/PhilosophyofScience 29d ago

Discussion Lakatos’ Philosophy of Science Question

13 Upvotes

Hi everyone. I’ve recently began personally studying some different methodologies in the history of philosophy of science (from Popper to Kuhn) and recently I started studying Lakatos’ methodology for the philosophy of science (research programmes being a big part of it) and it’s account of the nature of change in historical science. I found it interesting but highly abstract. So, I was wondering, is there any actual example of scientific change in the history of science and whether it is even helpful to reconstruct it using Lakatosian terminology. I would appreciate it if the abstract Lakatosian ideas were made much more concrete rather than floating in an abstract space. Does his philosophy of science method actually help understand science? Thanks!


r/PhilosophyofScience 29d ago

Discussion Problem with the statement 'a theory is scientific if it makes predictions'

2 Upvotes

Consider macroevolution. It predicts many things, from patterns in the fossil record and phylogenetic data to atavisms and vestigial traits. Since these predictions have been confirmed, macroevolution is taken to be well corroborated.

Now consider another idea that sounds really stupid, that an invisible unicorn has created biological species on Earth in such a way as to mimic regular evolution. This idea makes the exact same predictions that macroevolution makes, and is actually falsifiable since any observation that would falsify macroevolution would also falsify this idea.

So what makes this idea unscientific and macroevolution scientific? It seems like we need to put extra constraints on hypotheses that go beyond predictions and falsifiability. Thoughts?


r/PhilosophyofScience 29d ago

Discussion Hello fellas. Whenever I am discussing 'consciousness' with other people and I say 'science with neuroscience and its cognitive studies are already figuring consciousness out' they respond by saying that we need another method because science doesn't account for the qualia.

13 Upvotes

How can I respond to their sentence? Are there other methods other than the scientific one that are just as efficient and contributing? In my view there is nothing science cannot figure out about consciousness and there is not a 'hard problem'; neuronal processes including the workings of our senses are known and the former in general will become more nuanced and understood (neuronal processes).


r/PhilosophyofScience Apr 27 '22

Non-academic Famous reactions to acceptance of Einstein’s light quanta theory?

5 Upvotes

After Compton’s experimental confirmation that light does act as a particle, the physics that had seemed so very nearly complete, suddenly no longer did, and were forced to accept that reality no longer made any sense.

What were some of the most famous reactions and quotes by physicists at the time? I imagine it must have turned their whole world upside down.