Showing posts with label Continental Drift. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Continental Drift. Show all posts

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What is Science and What Can We Learn From it About Keeping Our Heads on Straight Generally.

Here are three posts trying to make some contribution to philosophy of science and to the public's understanding of it.

The first, What is A Machine? Natural Machines and Origins of Science tries to express something possibly original about the occasions when people have gotten a foothold on the path to a major branch of science.  Before the scientific revolution there were, hidden amidst the blooming buzzing confusion of nature, a few "natural machines".  Unlike the typical object in nature, they behave with predictable simplicity, although this may not be obvious for a long time -- until certain concepts and technologies aid in their analysis.  These include a heavy dense projectile in (parabolic, as it turns out) flight, and the system of the Earth, Sun, moon, and planets (and their moons).  Probably, I should say machines and mechanical processes, but I like the idea of a flying rock or cannonball as an ultra-simple machine.

The next essay, Finding Your Invisible Elephant. A Science Requires, and is Shaped by, a Tractable Subject Matter suggests that "scientific method", or other good epistemic processes such as peer review journals and conventions are not enough.  Once a discipline, through a fruitful set of techniques, is able to repeatedly find its way to make contact with a coherent set of fundamental facts of nature, only then do the practices of academia give rise to a ratcheting mechanism that can make the diverse efforts of many autonomous individuals and groups converge on better and better understanding of some set of phenomena.  This does not work for literary criticism, and its working in many fields of social science, such as sociology of scientific knowledge, is highly dubious.

The third essay, Global Warming and the Controversy: What is Scientific Consensus? Continental Drift as Example focuses on a case study of scientific consensus by a practitioner of the fairly new field of social epistemology, Miriam Solomon in her book Social Empiricism.  It concerns the gelling, over several decades, of recognition of the phenomenon of continental drift, or plate tectonics.  Many very diverse disciplines had to finally agree that they all had data pointing to the same surprising phenomena before it could legitimately be said that there was a scientific consensus.

Now, this falls short of what the title seems to promise, but is part of a project of trying to take small, sometimes painful steps in that direction.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Global Warming and the Controversy: What is Scientific Consensus? Continental Drift as Example.

    One common way of attacking the mainstream of climatology for its "global warming consensus" is to claim that consensus is just that sort of authoritarian "group think" that Galileo confronted in the Inquisition.  A companion claim is that mainstream climatologists have abandoned "the scientific method".  Some of those who say they have a case against AGW are likely to say that they are practicing the true "scientific method" and anyone who doesn't accept their experiment(s) or studies as decisive must be rejecting the scientific method.  They may also delve into the mainstream studies.  Global warming dissidents (who rarely sound to me like true skeptical thinkers) often cite studies by scientists who would be surprised to learn that anyone is saying their study disproved AGW, so it is often not scientists, but "science critics" claiming the scientific method has been abandoned by mainstream climatologists.  One person with whom I recently argued (on Facebook) said "When I went to college and took experimental psychology, the premise of experimentation was to challenge existing theory" and later "There is a scientific experimental process ... propose a postulate, select your population or test material, identify and isolate variables, run your test, draw conclusions, repeat, publish, then stand up to challenge."