Item description for Scrutinizing Science: Empirical Studies of Scientific Change (Synthese Library) by A. Donovan...
In "Scrutinizing Science" nineteen historians of science, philosophers of science, and scientists test a selection of major theories - including those of Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend, and Larry Lauden - against important episodes in the development of the physical sciences. this paperback edition includes a new introduction by the editors.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.1" Width: 6" Height: 1.3" Weight: 1.66 lbs.
Release Date May 31, 1988
ISBN 9027726086 ISBN13 9789027726087
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Reviews - What do customers think about Scrutinizing Science: Empirical Studies of Scientific Change (Synthese Library)?
Too incompetent to be of any use Jul 17, 2009
The purpose of this book is to "subject key claims of some of the theories of scientific change to just that kind of empirical scrutiny that has been so characteristic of science itself" (p. 3). Characteristic of bad science, perhaps. The studies are too incompetent to be of any value. I shall exemplify this by discussing one illustrative example.
One of the alleged findings is that novel predictions are generally unimportant. This may very well be true, but the main test case on which the conclusion is based is one were novel predictions were obviously of very great importance: Galileo's acceptance of Copernicanism.
Finocchiaro, who has written the case study, absurdly concludes that "at no time did [Galileo] judge [Copernicanism's] acceptability largely on the basis of predictive novelty" (p. 65). Finocchiaro's conclusion is wholeheartedly accepted by the editors when they draw their general conclusions. The note uncritically that "Finocchiaro finds no evidence to bear out the claim that Galileo ever judged the Copernican assumption is light of their ability to generate surprising predictions" (p. 19).
Somehow Finocchiaro completely ignores the obvious fact that the phases of Venus was an enormously important novel prediction. In fact its importance is clear even from his own narrative. Before the telescopic observations, "Galileo's attitude toward Copernicanism was ... partial and qualified" (p. 56). "There is no question that the telescopic discoveries led Galileo to a significant reappraisal of Copernicanism" (p. 57). The phases of Venus were obviously a crucial part of this, as Galileo explains: "From this marvelous observation we have sensible and certain demonstration ... that Venus necessarily revolves around the sun" (p. 58). Finocchiaro adds that "He goes on to describe the changes in his attitude as one from belief without to one with empirical proof: 'this had indeed been believed ... but not sensibly proved ...'" (p. 58).
Galileo emphasised the importance of the phases of Venus many times, such as, to take one typical example among many, in this 1614 passage: "As regards Copernicus's opinion, I really hold it as certain, and not only because of the observations on Venus, ..." (p. 61; Galileo's point in the omitted part is to go on to boast about "many other particular reasons of mine," which are not specified, but are presumably the arguments regarding tides, mechanics, etc.). But according to Finocchiaro, "Galileo judged Copernicanism largely on the basis of ... problem-solving success in the physics of motion and its explanatory coherence in the astronomical field ... plus empirical accuracy" (p. 65). None of this gives much reason to single out the phases of Venus (or why Galileo's telescopic observations should be decisive at all). It is just an observed fact like countless others. The reasonable explanation is that Galileo singled it out because it was a novel predictive success. So while the editors are right that "Finocchiaro finds no evidence" that Galileo attached any importance to novel predictions, the only reason for this is Finocchiaro's incompetence.