Page 112 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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containing theoretical terms are not made true in virtue of anyone’s attitudes towards some
theory or set of theories
, where “in virtue” is read in the constitutive sense.
Given that the creationist’s project is to provide a scientific vindication of the biblical
account of creation, the creationist would do well to accept the realist’s ontological
commitments. G-d is a theoretical entity par excellence. In the creationist’s story, G-d does
nearly all of the explanatory work. Were the creationist to reject the realist’s ontological
commitments, the creationist would have to accept that truths about theoretical entities are a
human construct. Consequently, truths about G-d would be human constructs. This neatly
inverts the theist’s order of explanation. Rather than G-d being our creator, we become the
creator of G-d. This result is unpalatable to any committed theist.
Scientific Realism’s Epistemological Commitments
The realist’s commitment to the approximate truth of our best theories does not come by
itself. Imagine a philosopher who simultaneously believed (a) that
the standard model is
approximately true
and (b) that
the methods of particle physics do not provide good
justification for belief
. While coherent, such a position is surely irrational. One might ask
such a philosopher: “If the methods of particle physics do not provide justification, what
reason could you possibly have for thinking that
the standard model is approximately true
?”
It is difficult to imagine a satisfactory response.
In addition to her semantic and ontological commitments, the scientific realist has
epistemological commitments. In virtue of her commitment to the approximate truth of our
best scientific theories, the realist is further committed to the truth conduciveness of scientific
methods. If one wants to hold, for instance, that
the standard model is approximately true
,
one must think that (at least some of) the methods of particle physics are justification
conferring.
In addition to their above commitments, realists tend to endorse a broad-strokes
picture of the scientific project. By the light of the standard realist view, scientific progress
should be understood as the increasingly accurate approximation of reality by theory. Theory
informs method and method, in turn, informs theory. As our scientific theories improve, our
methods for investigating the external world improve alongside them. And as our methods
for investigating the external world improve, we find out more about the universe we inhabit
and our theories become increasingly accurate. (Boyd, 1983)
The realist’s picture of scientific progress neatly accounts for the increasing pragmatic
success of the sciences. The ways in which scientific discoveries have improved our lives are
myriad. For many in the developed world it is likely difficult to imagine what life was like a
mere 100 years ago. Any phenomenon this striking demands explanation. Realists are apt to
argue that the increasing pragmatic success of science can only be explained by the picture of
scientific theories increasingly approximating truth. As our theories get closer and closer to
the truth, we increasingly understand the nature of the world we inhabit. In turn, this
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