The logic of scientific discovery

3 Feb, 2020 at 15:53 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | 1 Comment

bhaskIt is because we are material things, possessed of the senses of sight and touch, that we accord priority in verifying existential claims to changes in material things. But scientists posit for these changes both continuants and causes, some of which are necessarily unperceivable. It is true that ‘that a flash or a bang occurs does not entail that anything flashes or bangs. “Let there be light” does not mean “let something shine”. But a scientist can never rest content with effects: he must search for causes; and causes reside in or constitute things. Charged clouds, magnetic fields and radio stars can only be detected through their effects. But this does not lead us to deny their existence, any more than we can rationally doubt the existence of society or of language as a structure irreducible to its effects. There could be a world of electrons without material objects; and there could be a world of material objects without men. It is contingent that we exist (and so know this). But given that we do, no other position is rationally defensible. It is the nature of the world that determines which aspects of reality can be possible objects of knowledge for us.

1 Comment

  1. “Charged clouds, magnetic fields and radio stars can only be detected through their effects. But this does not lead us to deny their existence, any more than we can rationally doubt the existence of society or of language as a structure irreducible to its effects.”
    .
    The problem is that our ideas of what causes the effects we observe are likely to change as much as epicycle theory. Epicycles provided an explanatory cause for observed effects and our notions of charged clouds, magnetic fields, and radio stars are likely to be very different a hundred or thousand years hence.


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