More notes at http://tanguay.info/learntracker
C O U R S E 
Philosophy and the Sciences
Duncan Pritchard, University of Edinburgh
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Epistemic Relativism, Scientific Realism, and Falsifiability
Notes taken on October 29, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
two contrasts set scientific inquiries apart from other inquiries
1. science and pseudo science
astronomy vs. astrology
same subject matter: what is in the sky
pseudo-science inquiries look very much like scientific inquiries
both gather evidence
both make predictions
astronomy makes bold claims that are testable and falsifiable
astrology makes vague claims that are not testable or falsifiable
astronomy taught at universities
2. science and non-science
literary theory as non-science
similar to science since it involves
gathering evidence
yield knowledge
science makes falsifiable claims
the trial of Galileo
Galileo used a new technology to make observations of the heavens
Bellarmine appealed to evidence of scripture to argue the sun orbits the earth
that had different conceptions for what counts as evidence for settling scientific questions, e.g. "what are the heavens like?"
Galileo thinks that evidence from direct observations count the most
Bellarmine thinks that evidence also includes the evidence of scripture
Bellarmine does not believe that observation has no bearing at all on this question
Bellarmine believed that as the technology got better, there may someday be enough evidence to make the case that the earth orbits the sun
Bellarmine did not believe that the evidence of scripture was sacrosanct
what is important is that Bellarmine thinks that the evidence of scripture is relevant to the question whereas Galileo doesn't
epistemic relativism
this is not relativism about truth
they both think that there is an objective issue that they are both trying to settle
the each think that one of them is right and one of them is wrong
it's a relativism about what counts as evidence for what
it seems that because their conceptions of what counts as evidence are so different, that there is no way of settling their dispute
there seems to be no neutral ground between these two disputants
how do we say to Bellarmine that his Biblical evidence isn't relevant, or how to say to Galileo that it is relevant?
Galileo won the argument from a historical point of view and the perspective of the scientific revolution
and with the scientific revolution came a view opposed to epistemic relativism, that of scientific realism
scientific realism
the goal of science is to uncover the objective truth about the world around us
scientific progress occurs when our theories accurately represent facts which can be repeatedly demonstrated
opposed to epistemic relativism, as there is an objective epistemic basis for evaluating scientific disagreements
which is why Galileo eventually won the argument
science honors the kind of evidence that Galileo was interested in
not that which Bellarmine was interested in
what is it about the scientific method which makes it objective in a way that the scientific realist maintains?
induction vs. deduction
deductive inference says that if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true
all swans are purple, X is a swan, therefore X is purple
inductive inference says that if the premises are true, the conclusion is only likely to be true
lots of swans that have been observed are white, therefore it is likely that all swans are white
but this doesn't guarantee the truth of the conclusion
science proceeds by making inductive inferences
this kind of reasoning is fallible
although its fallible reasoning, it's a rational way to build a corpus of facts about the world based on both observation, experimentation, testing and reasoning
approach of Karl Popper
says that the scientific method is essential deductive, not inductive
scientists do make lots of observations
but then make bold conjectures about the way the world is
then they seek to refute and falsify those bold conjectures
e.g. (1) see lots of white swans, (2) make a bold conjecture that all swans are white, (3) go out and try to find the counter example that falsifies the bold conjecture
this is actually deduction: a conclusion refuted by a counter-example, e.g. there is a black swan, therefore it is not the case that all swans are white
claims are made bold so that they are falsifiable, they state clearly what will falsify them
Popper argued that theories such as those of Marxim and Freudism are not falsifiable and are therefore not scientific claims
e.g. astrology makes inferences of various kinds
claims are very vague and indeterminate
it's unclear how one would go about testing them to definitively show that they are true or false
in contrast, the scientist comes up with bold conjectures
the conjectures being bold, they offer a straight-forward way of being tested