Page 114 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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(1)
If science is a human construction then science is not theory independent.
(2)
If science is not theory independent then scientific realism is false.
(3)
If science is a human construction then scientific realism is false. (From 1 and 2)
(4)
Science is a human construction.
(5)
Therefore, scientific realism is false.
As written, the first premise is ambiguous. We can understand “science” in at least two
distinct ways. We might take “science” to refer to the
practice of science
. This is the sort of
activity chemists undertake in the lab, physicists do with a particle accelerator, and botanists
engage in while in the field. The practice of science includes collecting and analyzing data,
theory construction and selection, and so on.
Alternatively, we might take “science” to refer to
the institution of science
. The
institution of science includes the practice of science as well as all of the bureaucracy that
surrounds it, such things as the NIH and the NSF, university administrations, peer-reviewed
journals, and so on. We can now distinguish between two ways of understanding the first
premise:
(1a) If the practice of science is a human construction, then the practice of science is not
theory independent.
(1b) If the institution of science is a human construction, then the institution of science is not
theory independent.
(1a) and (1b) are also ambiguous. As previously noted, we can understand
theory
independence
in two distinct ways. Something might be
causally
theory independent or it
may be
constitutively
theory independent. If we understand (1a) and (1b) as making a claim
about causal theory independence, (1a) and (1b) are clearly true. All human activities and
institutions are shaped by people’s theoretical commitments.
If, however, we understand (1a) and (1b) to be making a claim about constitutive
theory independence, they are either false or question begging. While the practice and
institution of science are clearly shaped by people’s theoretical commitments, it is
implausible to think that truths about either are
constituted
by theoretical commitments. Facts
about human behavior, not facts about human theoretical commitments, make claims about
science – practice or institution – true.
Nonetheless, one may be drawn towards a view about the practice of science and the
institution of science whereby both are constitutively theory dependent. If one accepts this
kind of view, then one will be willing to endorse the constitutive reading of (1a) and (1b).
One cannot, however, ground an objection to scientific realism in the constitutive reading of
either (1a) or (1b). Such a reading demands a robust form of constructivism about the
external world, a metaphysical commitment that any scientific realist would reject. Thus, any
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