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COGS 3750 (2)


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Cognitive Science
COGS 3750
Rebecca Jubis

Chapter 10: Judging Scientific Theories Chapter Summary Science seeks knowledge and understanding of reality, and it does so through the formulation, testing, and evaluation of theories. Science is a way of searching for truth. Technology, though, is the production of products. Science is not a worldview, and we can’t identify it with a particular ideology. A particular worldview may predominate in the scientific community, but this doesn’t mean that the worldview is what science is all about. Science is not scientism—it is not the only way to acquire knowledge. It is, however, our most reliable way of acquiring knowledge of empirical facts. The scientific method cannot be identified with any particular set of experimental or observational procedures. But it does involve several general steps: (1) identifying the problem, (2) devising a hypothesis, (3) deriving a test implication, (4) performing the test, and (5) accepting or rejecting the hypothesis. This kind of theory-testing is part of a broader effort to evaluate a theory against its competitors. This kind of evaluation always involves, implicitly or explicitly, the criteria of adequacy. Inference to the best explanation can be used to assess weird theories as well as more commonplace explanations in science and everyday life. However, when people try to evaluate extraordinary theories, they often make certain mistakes. They may believe that because they can’t think of a natural explanation, a paranormal explanation must be correct. They may mistake what seems for what is; forgetting that we shouldn’t accept the evidence provided by personal experience if we have good reason to doubt it. And they may not fully understand the concepts of logical and physical possibility. In both science and everyday life, the TEST formula enables us to fairly appraise the worth of all sorts of weird theories, including those about crop circles and communication with the dead, the two cases we examined in this chapter. Chapter Objectives Science and Not Science You will be able to • understand why science is not the same thing as technology, ideology, and scientism. The Scientific Method You will be able to • list the five steps of the scientific method, • understand the logic of scientific testing, and • understand why no scientific hypothesis can be conclusively confirmed or conclusively confuted. Testing Scientific Theories You will be able to • use the steps of the scientific method to explain how a scientist would go about testing a simple hypothesis in medical science; and • understand why scientists use control groups, make studies double-blind, include placebos in testing, and seek replication of their work. Judging Scientific Theories You will be able to • list the five criteria of adequacy and explain what they mean, and • understand how to apply the criteria of adequacy to the theories of evolution and creationism and why the text says that evolution is the better theory. Science and Weird Theories You will be able to • explain why evaluating weird claims might be worthwhile. Making Weird Mistakes You will be able to • understand why it can be so easy to err when trying to evaluate weird theories, • explain three major errors that people often make when they are trying to assess extraordinary experiences and theories, and • explain the distinction between logical and physical possibility. Judging Weird Theories You will be able to • use the TEST formula to evaluate extraordinary theories, and • understand why eyewitness testimony is often unreliable. Study Questions 1. What is the difference between science and technology? 2. Why can’t science be considered an ideology? 3. What is scientism? 4. Why is science such a reliable way of acquiring knowledge? 5. What are the five steps involved in the scientific method? 6. How do scientists construct hypotheses to test? 7. What is a test implication? 8. What are the two conditional arguments used as models for scientific testing? 9. Why can’t scientific hypotheses be conclusively confuted? 10.What does double-blind mean? Why are double-blind methods used in scientific testing? 11.Why is replicati
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