Some problems in philosophy of science

In my classes in the history and philosophy of science, I have tried many times, with my students, to develop a satisfactory definition of science. Us...
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In my classes in the history and philosophy of science, I have tried many times, with my students, to develop a satisfactory definition of science. Usually we have been unsuccessful, until I have about decided that it is a fruitless pursuit. We usually end up defining science in terms of "scientific method," a circular process at best. This has led me to have greater and great1.r clouhts that scientists are any different from anyone else. How ran we he different if we can't define what it is we 'I,,?

So. then. trvine another tack.. oerhaos we can devise some . kind "f bo&dar;'to separate science from non-srience. Here I have had much hetter luck. Karl I'oooer. the meatest livine philosopher of science, in his book, "'I;he'log~ of scientif; Discoverv." has sueeested as a criterion of demarcation betwrrn sriencennd nun-science, fnlsitiahility. Now that Popper savs falsifiahilitv, nut veriiiahilitv. P u ~ o e rand . other modern philosophers, arehecoming incre&in& aware that no theory, scientific or otherwise, is ever verifiable. No matter how many times we prove an idea to he true, there still remains the chance that we have overlooked something which may later prove it to he untrue. There can be no final statements in science. Newton's laws of motion were thought to he the ultimate statement, unchanged for over 200 years, until Einstein showed them to be only partially valid, not valid for bodies moving with speeds close to the speed of light. A recent article appeared in Harper's Magazine under the title "Darwin's Mistake." as t h o u ~ hDarwin's theorv of evolution was put forward as an immutable law to endur;! for all time. Evolution did not originate with Darwin, nor was his statement of the theory of evolution the final statement. Linus Pauline in his hook "Colleee Chemistrv"savs. matter-of-factly: "The first step in th;? scientific kethbd is to obtain some facts hv observation and exoeriments. The next step is to r~assit\.nndcorrelate the facts birgeneral stacemenm. If a aeneral statement is sim& in form, it may he called a law l as the origiof nature." James B. conant cites ~ a rpearson nator of this form of the scientific method. Thus the empirical scienws are widely t~rlievedto he t~asedon the methodof induction, drawing conclusions from emuiriral ohservntiuns. But over 200 yearcago the philosophei David Hume, in his "Treatise of Human Nature" (1739), pointed out, "even after the ohservatiun of the frrquent c h a n t runjunction of objects, we have no rrason to drnw any inference roncerning any objert heyond those of which we have had experience." Popper calls this Hume's "prohlem of indurtion." How can wr ba>ethe so-called "laws of nature" on ot~sewationsof past events and therel~yforecast what may happen in the future, when wr ha\,e no logical basis for predicting the future? We are in effcrt using on n secular scalc what theologians might rall oredrstination. Poor~crsolves the "orohlem of indurtion" by the simple process hisaying there isno such thing as pure induction. T o out i t as simolv as oossible. we donot make anv observations & a purely objecti;e manner, hut make all 01;servations from a viewooint which d e ~ e n d on s the observer and his previous history. Stated another way, we first must have a problem we want to solve before we know what to ohserve. Popper illustrated this principle very vividly a t a meeting where he asked the audience to help him with a little experi-


ment. When he gave a simal, h e wanted everyone in the audience to start ohservin' when they were givenanothersignal, they should write down their ohservntions and pass them down to the sneaker. After he had riven the sienal to beein observing, poiper had to wait h u t a few moments hefire someone raised his hand and asked, "what do you want us to observe?" "That is exactly my point," Popper replied. How can we observe anvthine ohiectivelv. unless we have a Dumose in our observatioi? I b k e v e this Glls into question then the whole process which we call the "scientific method," the method of induction, in which we s t a t with pure observations, suooosedlv uninfluenced hv orevious conceots. The first experiment hthe laboratory manual for the &em-Study Proeram asks the student to observe a hurnine candle and write down his ohservationi. Someone recorded as many as 57 obsenntions. Hut I hrlieve we could show that every ohsenatiun W H . ~based on some previous experience of the observer. e.g., "the wax melts," where the observer has to know the meaning of "to melt" before he can even observe the fact. If we cannot define science, if the very scientific method itself is being subjected to questioning, are we justified in assuming that scientism then are a hreed apart, something like n different soecies? I believe not. I do not areue with C. 1'. Snow's righito propose the idea that there are"two cultures.' Indeed, with Popper, I believe we need to present our ideas in as exposed amanner as possible. We owe our appreciation to Snow for nresentine the idea that there mav be two cultures into which dur societiis dividing itself. But we do not have to accept this idea as definitive, to act as thoughsuch a division is inevitable. We do not need to act as though the education of Renaissance Men todav is an imoossihilitv. On the contram. it may lead us to a better understanding of what compris& human knowledge. I t is obvious that men are piling up a record of their ohservations at an astonishing rate today. This information is part of what Popper calls World 111,the world of "objective contents of thought," which includes scientific thoughts hut also poetic and artistic thoughts and works of art. But whether such a body of thoughts need be considered "knowledge," in the sense that we must learn all of it to he "knowledgeable," is a matter of great doubt to me. I have a feeling we may he creating great edifices in World 111, some of which may prove to be like the great edifices of Mayan civilization, surprisingly maenificent. hut oerhaos of relativelv little conseauence to the"world as a w h e . l'do not helie& it is necessAy for an educated man to know all about the intricacies of the quantum or relativity theory any more than he must know all the sonnets of Shakespeare. Perhaps we should look at the relativity theory in a manner suggested by John Synge, who calls relativitv "the art of simalline." Some of us mav want to know much more than th% aboit relativity, just as someone may --

Part of rhe opening paper entitled "Are Two Cultur~sNecessary," of the Symposium "Closing the Two Culrures Cap," at the Southwestern and Rorky Mountain Divismn Meeting. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 20-25 February, 1977, Denver, Colorado. 'Snow, C.P., "TheTwo Cultures," New Statesman, (October, 1956). Also see Lord Snow's "The Two Cultures: A Second Look," 1963. Volume 54, Number 8, June 1977 1 357

choose to memorize all of Shakespeare's sonnets. But I believe we can still find a happy medium where minds can meet, without dividing ourselves into two camps, those who are scientifically inclined and those who are not so inclined. There is nothing fundamentally different about developing a scientific intellect than in developing a literary or artistic intellect, I believe. An intellect needs to he challenged to develop. As it develops, the challenges, or problems, it is asked to solve need to become increasingly more difficult. But the solving of problems is what we are all about, whether we are scientists or artists. If we once remove the premise that there is something

358 1 Journal of ChemicalEducation

fundamentally different about scientists and the way they think, then perhaps we can determine to undertake the education of all students in a manner such as to unify our society rather than to divide it. We may still need t o educate architects to design our edifices of knowledge, and bricklayers to lay the stones for them. But I don't believe we need to train two species of architects and two species of bricklayers, at least.

J. A. Schufle New Mexico Highlands University Las Vegas, New Mexico 87701