Thoughts on the Philosophy of Science

Recently I’ve read a variety of essays on the topic of philosophy and the natural sciences. Some of the philosophers I’ve read include Kuhn, Popper, Thagard, Lakatos, Ruse, and Lauden, to name a few. Some of the topics include the demarcation of science and non-science, and the criteria for pseudoscience. Subtopics include astrology, biorhythms, and creationism.
I just read an essay written by Michael Ruse titled Why Creation Science is Not Science. I wanted to expunge on some thoughts…

Michael Ruse carefully defends his position that creation-science is indeed, not a science. He centralizes his arguments against creationism around key philosophical principles that act foundationally to support his notion of real science. At the crux of his argument is empiricism, the basic tenant of science, whereby sense experience and observation of consistency and order ultimately yield understanding which scientists distill as laws through rigorous standards of criteria.

Ruse lays out what he believes the criteria should look like and expands on several parts of the scientific enterprise to include the role of laws, explanation, prediction, testability, confirmation, falsifiability, tentativeness, and integrity. Ruse presents these roles as necessary empirical and social elements for determining whether phenomenon is scientific.

What I would like to explore, and what Popper attempted to address in his scientific method of falsification, is the epistemological problems within empiricism. Without empiricism, no order can be observed that would allow for the consistency needed to provide explanations or make predictions. However, within empiricism lies embedded presuppositions about certain truth values. While we would like to claim that reason alone can correct for presuppositions, it is not clear that this is the case. These truth values stem from paradigms of perceived problems, a world view that we inherit from society, our family, our peers, and the classroom. When a hypothesis is stated, when a proposition is posited, in it contains the residue of imperfect experience and limited complex phenomenon derived from the past. As a result, all propositions are inherently inductive in nature. One cannot provide a hypothesis or proposition without succumbing to imperfect bias due to imperfect experience. But how is this overcome?

This is where I believe community becomes necessary. The conflation of diverse perspectives among and across various peer groups allows for a more refined methods of testing and conceptions for understanding conclusions. Each test should be replicable and subject to scrutiny of the professionals. But what role does the public play in choosing what’s best? Is it best left to academia?

As this relates to the Creationism debate, two things stand out. First, creationism is not progressive, violating Lakatos’ criterion for science as a program that continues to unearth and explore previously unknown anomalies. As Ruse pointed out, this is because it fails to fully account for the role of empirical laws in making predictions and providing explanations. Secondly, evidence for theories other than creationism are far too robust. In the past century, the scientific community has shown time and time again that it is willing to adopt new theories so long as the evidence is more resilient.

Regarding creationism claims: Is the question, what hypothesis best explains the evidence? Or what evidence can best explain a hypothesis? Deductive or inductive? top down or bottom up? I’m inclined that secular scientists are prone to take the bottom up method, asking what the evidence points to, while creationists begin with a starting point and try to make evidence fit accordingly. I think both are necessary for maintaining a well rounded criterion for testability and falsification.

A curious question that continues to persist in the back of my mind is this: What are the limits of our current scientific paradigms? Can or does science simply justify its worldview by the accumulation of ‘scientific’ research that operates within a paradigm? What becomes of a world too entrenched within a paradigm to recognize a lapse? Is this a possibility?