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Posts Tagged "philosophy of science"

Cross-Check

Is David Deutsch’s Vision of Endless Understanding Delusional?

book jacket for "The Beginning of Infinity"

I’m a believer in wishful thinking, in the power of our hopes to become self-fulfilling. I even believe that war is going to end! But at some point, if wishful thinking diverges too sharply from what we can reasonably expect from reality, it morphs into denial or delusion. David Deutsch’s hope that science will keep [...]

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Cross-Check

The “Slow Science” Movement Must Be Crushed!

Does science sometimes move too fast for own good? Or anyone’s good? Do scientists, in their eagerness for fame, fortune, promotions and tenure, rush results into print? Tout them too aggressively? Do they make mistakes? Exaggerate? Cut corners? Even commit outright fraud? Do journals publish articles that should have been buried? Do journalists like me [...]

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Doing Good Science

Pub-Style Science: dreams of objectivity in a game built around power.

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This is the third and final installment of my transcript of the Pub-Style Science discussion about how (if at all) philosophy can (or should) inform scientific knowledge-building. Leading up to this part of the conversation, we were considering the possibility that the idealization of the scientific method left out a lot of the details of [...]

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Doing Good Science

Pub-Style Science: exclusion, inclusion, and methodological disputes.

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This is the second part of my transcript of the Pub-Style Science discussion about how (if at all) philosophy can (or should) inform scientific knowledge-building, wherein we discuss methodological disputes, who gets included or excluded in scientific knowledge-building, and ways the exclusion or inclusion might matter. Also, we talk about power gradients and make the [...]

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Doing Good Science

Pub-Style Science: philosophy, hypotheses, and the scientific method.

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Last week I was honored to participate in a Pub-Style Science discussion about how (if at all) philosophy can (or should) inform scientific knowledge-building. Some technical glitches notwithstanding, it was a rollicking good conversation — so much so that I have put together a transcript for those who don’t want to review the archived video. [...]

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Doing Good Science

What is philosophy of science (and should scientists care)?

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Just about 20 years ago, I abandoned a career as a physical chemist to become a philosopher of science. For most of those 20 years, people (especially scientists) have been asking me what the heck the philosophy of science is, and whether scientists have any need of it. There are lots of things philosophers of [...]

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Doing Good Science

Brief thoughts on uncertainty.

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For context, these thoughts follow upon a very good session at ScienceOnline Together 2014 on “How to communicate uncertainty with the brevity that online communication requires.” Two of the participants in the session used Storify to collect tweets of the discussion (here and here). About a month later, this does less to answer the question [...]

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Doing Good Science

Want good reasons to be a Creationist? You won’t find them here.

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I don’t know why it surprises me when technology reporters turn out to be not only anti-science, but also deeply confused about what’s actually going on in scientific knowledge-building. Today’s reminder comes in Virginia Heffernan’s column, “Why I’m a creationist”. There seems not to be much in the way of a coherent argument in support [...]

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Doing Good Science

The quest for underlying order: inside the frauds of Diederik Stapel (part 1)

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Yudhijit Bhattacharjee has an excellent article in the most recent New York Times Magazine (published April 26, 2013) on disgraced Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel. Why is Stapel disgraced? At the last count at Retraction Watch, 54 53 of his scientific publications have been retracted, owing to the fact that the results reported in those [...]

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Doing Good Science

Building a scientific method around the ideal of objectivity.

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While modern science seems committed to the idea that seeking verifiable facts that are accessible to anyone is a good strategy for building a reliable picture of the world as it really is, historically, these two ideas have not always gone together. Peter Machamer describes a historical moment when these two senses of objectivity were [...]

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Doing Good Science

The challenges of objectivity: lessons from anatomy.

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In the last post, we talked about objectivity as a scientific ideal aimed at building a reliable picture of what the world is actually like. We also noted that this goal travels closely with the notion of objectivity as what anyone applying the appropriate methodology could see. But, as we saw, it takes a great [...]

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Doing Good Science

The ideal of objectivity.

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In trying to figure out what ethics ought to guide scientists in their activities, we’re really asking a question about what values scientists are committed to. Arguably, something that a scientist values may not be valued as much (if at all) by the average person in that scientist’s society. Objectivity is a value – perhaps [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

It’s the end of fundamental physics. Again.

After Isaac Newton's discoveries of the laws of gravitation and motion, nothing comparable came out of science for more than a hundred years (Image: Wikipedia)

Fellow Scientific American blogger John Horgan is at it again. This time he is heralding the end of fundamental physics based on the increasing time lag between Nobel Prizes awarded for fundamental discoveries. There’s actually a grain of truth in his analysis; for instance the prizes awarded for quantum mechanics in rapid succession in the [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Diversifiers of the world – Unite!

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On my computer screen right now are two molecules. They are both large rings with about thirty atoms each, a motley mix of carbons, hydrogens, oxygens and nitrogens. In addition they have appendages of three or four atoms dangling off their periphery. The appendage in one of the rings has two more carbon atoms than [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Physics envy: The last emotion you ever want to feel

BICEP2 Twilight

This is a guest post by my friend Pinkesh Patel, a data scientist at Facebook. Pinkesh has a PhD in physics from Caltech during which he worked on LIGO, the gravitational wave detector. He then did research in computational biology at Stanford after which he moved to Facebook. Pinkesh is thus ideally poised to think [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Evidence of cosmological inflation reveals how much we don’t know

John F Kennedy eternal flame, Arlington National Cemetery.

I was immersed in the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Dallas this week, which meant that I could not catch more than wisps of the thrilling announcement from cosmology on Monday that could potentially confirm the prediction of inflation. If this turns out to be right it would indeed be a landmark discovery. My [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

On making mistakes

In postulating an incorrect structure for DNA, Linus Pauling surprisingly committed an elementary chemical blunder (Image: pauling blog)

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, Freeman Dyson has a nice review of Mario Livio’s readable book on scientific blunders committed by great scientists. The book is important reading for anyone who wants to understand the true history of science as a process of fits, starts, blind alleys, occasional great [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Falsification and chemistry: What’s the rub?

Roald Hoffmann: Chemist, philosopher, poet.

A few people seem unhappy with my previous post in which I made the contention that falsification as a philosophy is much less relevant to chemistry than to physics, especially when chemists make molecules. I think the question is interesting enough to deserve some more space. My take on the relative unimportance of falsification comes [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Falsification and its discontents

Karl Popper's grounding in the age of physics colored his views regarding the way science is done. Falsification was one of the resulting casualties (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

One of the answers to Edge.org’s question “What scientific idea is ready for retirement”? is by physicist Sean Carroll. Carroll takes on an idea from the philosophy of science that’s usually considered a given: falsification. I mostly agree with Carroll’s take, although others seem to be unhappier, mainly because Carroll seems to be postulating that [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Physics and fundamental laws: Necessary truth or misleading cacophony?

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Robert Oppenheimer’s greatest contribution to physics was one that he wanted nothing to do with for the rest of his life. In 1939 Oppenheimer and his student Hartland Snyder published a paper in the same issue of the Physical Review that featured Niels Bohr and John Wheeler’s seminal article on the mechanism of nuclear fission [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Should physicists stop looking for fundamental laws?

The existence of bubble-like multiple universes could transform physics from a fundamental science to a historical one (Image: Etfriends)

Physics, unlike biology or geology, was not considered to be a historical science until now. Physicists have prided themselves on being able to derive the vast bulk of phenomena in the universe from first principles. Biology – and chemistry, as a matter of fact – are different. Chance and contingency play an important role in [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

“What scientific idea is ready for retirement?”

Wavefunction collapse, an idea that may be ripe for retirement (Image: A Friedman)

Every year since 1998, Big Questions guru John Brockman has posed one big question on Edge.org and gotten about forty or fifty of the world’s leading thinkers to come up with their own answers. This year the question is “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?”. The answers showcase a range of thinking and topics [...]

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