HPS READINGS Week 3.docx

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History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Hakob Barseghyan

Chapter Three Preliminary Observations - Empirical facts: supported by direct, straightforward, observational evidence. For example, a pencil on a desk. You can see, feel, hear, taste and smell it (if you wanted). - Now you have another pencil, same situation. But you put it in a drawer. You cannot see it there, but you believe it is there. This belief cannot be the same as believing the pencil on the desk. After all, you cannot see, touch, or observe it in the drawer. - This is because most of us cannot imagine that objects go out of existence when they are no longer observed. Stable objects remain in existence without being observed. - The pencil on the dust is direct observational evidence while the other stems from our views on the world we live in. - A scientific theory has relevant facts but theories from the history of science are based on philosophical/conceptual convictions about the sort of world people involved inhabited. - Example: from ancient Greece to the early 1600s, people believed plants moved w perfectly circular and uniform motion at the same speed. Our current theories, for ex. Mars, shows that it moves in an elliptical orbit and at varying speeds. - At first, the initial beliefs were “obvious” because “ether” moved perfectly circular; this everything within ether would do the same. These facts are heavily philosophical. - Empirical/philosophical and conceptual facts are not absolute. Most beliefs are a mixture. Ex. People observed stars moved perfectly circular, this empirical as well. - It is better to think in terms of a continuum. At one end, straightforward, and at the other, philosophical/conceptual. A note on Terminology - We do not have the right word to properly characterize deeply held and justified beliefs, such as “perfectly uniform” and “circular motion” (because they are not factual anymore) - They are not assumption either because they are based on the overall view of the universe we inhabit. - Strongly held beliefs appear to be facts. Best terms: empirical/philosophical facts Chapter Four Confirmation Reasoning - Approx. 100 years ago Einstein proposed the general theory of relativity. It predicted that the gravitational effect of a large body (the sun) would bend starlight. This was found true during the solar eclipse of 1919. - This reasoning is not unique to science. When we base predictions and they turn out to be correct, this is evidence that the theory is correct. - If we use T o rep a theory and O to rep observations predicted by T, then we can rep this as follows: if T, then O so O/T. Disconfirmation Reasoning - Late 1980s, cold fusion theory. If cold fusion was correct, one would expect a very high number of neutrons to be emitted during the process. Yet, expected # was not detected and this was evidence against this theory. - When we make predictions about a particular theory and those are not correct, we take it as evidence against. - Again, using T and O: if T, then O. so NOT O/NOT T Inductive and Deductive Reasoning - Confirmation reasoning = inductive. Disconfirmation = deductive. - Some say inductive moves from specific to general and deductive, vice versa. Not accurate! - Example of inductive: College men’s ball team never won NCAA. When they do make it to the tournament, they do not make it past the 1 round. This year, nothing has changed about the program. These factors make it unlikely that they will win the NCAA this year. - Given the premises of the argument, the conclusion is likely. BUT even if all premises and evidence are correct, it is still possible that the conclusion may be wrong. It is still possible that the men can win this year! - Inductive reasoning: in a good inductive argument, even if all premises are true, it is possible for the conclusion to be wrong. - Deductive argument: true premises guarantee a true conclusion. - Ex. whoever was in Linda’s house killed Linda. Whoever killed Linda is Uri. Commander Farrell was in her house. Therefore Commander Farrell is Uri. - Confirmation reasoning can best provide support for a theory but it will always remain possible that the theory is mistaken due to its inductive nature. - Consider the bending starlight theory. In order to do necessary calculations to predict the position of bent vs. unbent starli
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