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Philosophy of Science
Scientific theories allow scientists to organize their observations regarding reality and existence, and predict or create future observations or results. Scientific theories need to be consistent, testable, verifiable and useful in order to be valid and reliable. Theories are typically ideas about the ways in which things work. Scientific theory relates to logical and empirical criteria that can be tested and validated. For science to exist and to be considered valid there must be a logically consistent idea presented to the public that explains certain conditions or realities. To be valid, science must explain something and should be proven via experimentation. Science should also enable the user to have a better understanding of the item or issue it is explaining. This relates to validity.
Thesis) will argue in this paper that science needs to be independently verified to be considered science but also that science does not need to be socially accepted to be considered science. The experiments of one scientist may therefore be considered true science; however the validity of the results should be verified by subsequent studies. Many would argue that science does need to be socially accepted in order to verifiably be proclaimed legitimate. However, history has proven that time and time again "science" has forged ahead despite skepticism and criticism from a social standpoint. Often science forges ahead in light of the great unknown.
Science has been challenged since the beginning of time. Galileo and Newton were among the first scientists to propose a model of astronomy and physics. Their theories were founded and based upon physical laws of nature and concepts of time and space. Copernicus was also among the first scientist that argued that the Earth was not at the center of the Universe (Jones, 2003). His idea clearly challenged socially accepted norms that the opposite was true, yet his work clearly was scientific in nature. Through observation he concluded that the earth must in fact orbit the sun (Jones, 2003). Francis Bacon also supported the idea that experimentation proved a much more valid means of explaining scientific theory that popular consensus or deduction as a means to assess and validate reality (Jones, 2003).
Arguments for Validity of Science)
Many philosophers have supported the idea that science does not need to be socially accepted to be considered valid. Popper for example argues that mere deduction is not a valid mechanism of validating scientific fact. According to Popper, the possibility always exists that no matter how many observations exist to validate a theory, the possibility that a future observation will disrupt that theory consistently exists (Jones, 2003). This viewpoint supports the idea that a scientific theory may be considered valid even if it is not socially accepted. Popper would argue that even if the scientific theory were socially accepted, it could still be refuted at a later date by new discoveries. Science according to Popper is in essence a revolutionary process.
Popper strongly believed that a scientist "should attempt to disprove" rather than attempt to "continually prove" their theory (Curd, 1998). Popper would argue that one could never be 100% certain of the final result in a scientific experiment. Thus, even a scientist who had conducted a single experiment still legitimately could argue that their work is valid. If 100 scientists conducted the same experiment to validate it, reasonably one must admit the possibility that this theory might be disproved at some later date. Popper would argue that the individual theory if not disproved could very well be valid.
Kuhn agrees with Popper in that he also supports the premise that science is based in theory. He supports the theory proposed in this paper that science needs to be independently verified to remain true science. He approaches science in a more socially acceptable manner however. Kuhn feels that scientists have unique paradigms of the world, and each paradigm is represents a different interpretation of the world but not an objective explanation (Jones, 2003). Kuhn does acknowledge however the importance of the dominant community paradigms considered reality at any time. "Old paradigms are consistently displaced by new theories of reality" which are contingent upon observation and research (Curd, 1998).
Going back to Popper, Curd describes his definition of science as one of "conjectures and refutations" (Curd, 1998). Kuhn however, questions science as simply the "logic of discovery intertwined with the psychology of research" (Curd, 1998).
Science needs to be verified independently before it can be considered even remotely to be true. Science may be based on factual realities and historical backgrounds, but this does not necessitate a reliance on social approval for validity. Popper supports this premise wholeheartedly by stating that science begins with theory which is in essence "a conjecture or act of creative imagination" (Curd, 1998, Strauss, 2003). Expanding on this idea, Popper would define science as the process of refuting any theory presented. In the case of one scientist conducting a scientific experiment, Popper would argue that any data retrieved via experimentation, whether by one scientific experiment or many, may be refuted or disrupted. However he argues that this disruption in hypothesis or scientific theory is in fact, that "foundation of true science" (Curd, 1998, Strauss, 2003).
Popper believed that experimentation was necessary to validate scientific theory, and viewed the process of verification as a means of refuting or eliminating falsehoods (Curd, 1998, Strauss 2003). Science by definition is a means to eliminate or refute falsities in nature therefore, not necessarily a mechanism to prove truths exist (Curd, 1998). If Popper supported the idea that science needs to be socially acceptable to be valid, this idea would be invalid.
Kuhn also supports the importance of independent verification, using the concept of paradigms or modeling. Science according to Kuhn is a means to introduce logic and to "propose models for existence, or paradigms that represent groups of concepts and models as well as standards for existence" (Curd, 1998, Strauss, 2003). Kuhn supposes that observation is the natural result of theory.
Quine would acknowledge the idea that science could be socially acceptable to be valid. However the theorist also supports the idea that independent verification is necessary to define science. Quine takes a slightly different approach to scientific theory by equating science with philosophy and states that the two are continuously changing and affecting one another. Scientific "conjectures that are plausible at present" may change at any time and are as valid as any philosophical conjecture as well (Curd, 1998). Quine sees science more as a means to justify one's view, in some respects reminiscent of Kuhn's ideals. Quine believes that a conceptual framework or scheme is necessary "to retain and use best" what individuals know (Curd, 1998). Quine argues for continuity between philosophy and science.
Some may argue still however that science must prove social realities valid in order to be considered true theory. Kuhn in some respects supports this idea in part. Kuhn denies a step-by-step method of scientific discovery and instead supposes that research occurs in the presence of relative historical backgrounds and convictions that result from previously existing science (Kuhn, 1-4). This statement confirms that Kuhn agreed to some extent that social and community acceptance of theory and ideas are important relevant to scientific theory. However, one must also realize that he does not argue that science should be based on what the community deems socially acceptable. If this were the case, society might still be operating under the premise that the earth is the center of the universe, as this was the widely held conviction and historical background prevalent during the time of early scientific theory.
Kuhn is not supporting the idea that social acceptance is critical to scientific validity. Rather he is merely stating that much of scientific theory results from social norms and…[continue]
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