Page 108 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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evidential standards of science. By taking this approach, he dooms his version of creationism
to the domain of non-science.
At the heart of this objection to a certain version of creationism is the view that
inference to the best explanation plays a fundamental role in scientific theory selection. If
there were significant debate regarding the role of inference to the best explanation in theory
selection, Ham might be able to dismiss historical science without demoting his defense of
creationism to pseudoscience. Importantly, there is no such debate. Realists think that
inference to the best explanation is a guide to (theory-independent) truth. Anti-realists deny
this claim. Both, however, hold that inference to the best explanation plays an important role
in the scientific process. One’s stance on the reliability of inference to the best explanation
will determine one’s stance regarding the realism/anti-realism debate; it will not change one’s
view about what constitutes the practice of science.
Scientific Realism’s Semantic Commitment
While I have thus far said much about how a realist might think about creationism, I have
said very little about realism. It is time to remedy the situation.
“Realism” is a domain-neutral term. Thus, one can be a realist about nearly anything:
mental states, morality, corporations, tables and chairs, gender, race, science, and so on. In
each instance, the moniker “realist” denotes commitment to the ontologically robust nature of
members of the category in question. Unsurprisingly, realism about some domains has
garnered very little philosophical interest. Very few philosophers are interested in realism
regarding, for instance, ants or Jedi knights. Other varieties of realism remain the focus of
intense philosophical debate. Realism about the theoretical entities of science falls among the
latter.
Regardless of domain, realism is notoriously difficult to characterize and scientific
realism is no exception. The following characterization is not intended to provide jointly
necessary and sufficient conditions for scientific realism. Rather, the aim is to capture the
paradigm commitments of the scientific realist. There may remain views that, according to
the following classification scheme, occupy an uncomfortable middle ground between
scientific realism and scientific anti-realism. In such instances, classification must precede on
a case-by-case basis.
The realist is committed to the view that scientific claims are descriptions. Consider
the following sentence:
Electrons have negative charge
. Its surface grammar is identical to
the surface grammar of sentences with more familiar content, such as
Most 2014 cars have
airbags.
In both instances a property is predicated of a subject. In the first instance the
property of
having negative charge
is predicated of
electrons
. In the second instance the
property of
having airbags
is predicated of
most 2014 cars
. The sentence about airbags is
clearly a description. It tells us about a way the world is. It is true if the world is a certain way
and false otherwise. If the observed similarity in surface grammar is indicative of similarity
in conceptual structure, then we should also think that the sentence
Electrons have negative
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