THE NATURE OF PREVAILING THEORIES OF SCIENCE

 

For the past few centuries "Science" has held a special place in the minds of men. This place is designated by what men perceive "science" to be, and by what they believe it has accomplished. Concerning the former, we can arrive at some understanding by examining Popper's three worlds of reality. "World 1", he tells us, is. the world of physical objects. These are obvious because "if you kick them, they kick back." "World 2" is the psychological world, the world of the mind. "World 3" is the world of products of the brain. In this world he includes works of art, ethical theories, social institutions, and scientific theories including mistaken theories. Within "world 3" he suggests a sub-world called the "autonomous world 3". A numbering system and mathematics, for example, are part of the normal "World 3", but prime numbers exist independently of the mechanisms created by man. They refer to the numbering system, but we do not create them, we discover them. This is the special world that men see as that which science deals. Science, to most people, and to philosophers of science particularly, is the work of discovering elements of Popper's autonomous "third world". Considering the latter, or what people perceive that science has accomplished, as the "parent" of technology," science is. seen by most people as the primary driving force behind our technological civilization. Science, in this. way, receives. both the blame and the accolades; for technological success if science is part of the normal third world then the choice of activities that scientists make are subject to normative values and the role of science in such areas as genetic research is subject to moral criticism. On the other hand, if science is part of the "autonomous third world" then the work of the scientist is one of discovering what already exists and thus is amoral. Scientists, as a matter of record, would prefer not to be concerned with ethical or moral problems. As a result, Philosophers of science traditionally discuss science in terms of the world of ideas and mathematical relationships. They actively avoid sociological interpretations.

But suppose that the reality that science deals with consists of three levels of a complex hierarchical system within which interactions between levels form a necessary part of the entire system. Then, instead of three separate interacting worlds as Popper described them, such "Third World" concepts would be abstracted out of the complex only at the cost of losing some of those dynamic inter-level interactions. The difficulty with this approach is that it is these inter-level interactions that give science its unique characteristics. After all, one cannot have ideas without people or science without scientists.

My first step will be to examine the traditional approaches that philosophers of science take toward the explanations of theories put forward by Imre Lakatos and his description of the ways that various philosophers of science define the problem of demarcation, that is, methods for determining whether a theory is or is not scientific. I have chosen this approach for several reasons. To begin with, demarcation is ultimately the basic problem facing all philosophers. of science. Second, Lakatos' categories. provide clear and unambiguous classifications within which just about all well- known philosophers of science can be placed. In addition he was a leading Popperian, at the present time a most prestigious school of scientific philosophy. This gives us the distinct advantage of being able to discuss in detail philosophers who fall into different categories yet who are all of the same school, as well as Those of other persuasions. I do not want to give the impression, however, that I am biased toward Sir Karl and his followers. My answer to the problems developed in this thesis are deeply indebted to psychologist Herbert Simon who is a well-known Bayesian, Charles S. Peirce, the founder of pragmatism, and Ludwig Von Bertalanffy a distinguished member of that anti-Popperian group, the Vienna Circle. Imre Lakatos, then, was a philosopher in the mainstream of the Popperian tradition. Like his mentor, he fell strictly into the Demarcationist classification. those philosophers of science he compares in detail are also Popperians. They may differ greatly in their interpretation of demarcation and we must not underestimate the importance of that difference, while still viewing science very much the same way on most other matters.

The point is that we can examine these theories strictly on their own merit without fear of misquoting and, once the three classifications are clear in our minds, then we can see how others fall in. Lakatos placed philosophers of science into three categories depending on their attitudes toward demarcation; Sceptics, Demarcationists, and Elitists. His criticisms were, to a great extent, determined by his personal acceptance of the second category, or Demarcationism, as the most rational of the three. Lakatos was. a philosopher of mathematics; and perhaps this is the reason he developed a strong bias against sociologism and psychologism. As a result, his criticisms of each of the other two classifications fall into two areas. One, on the reliance or non-reliance on sociological or psychological forces to develop normative evaluations of scientific theories, and two, on the the problem of accounting for forces that are clearly of sociological or psychological origin once those forces have been denied.

Later I shall develop a theory of science that describes the differences between these schools. as different though equally valid simplifications of a single complex system. The dynamic activities of scientists engaged in their normal work results in patterns of constraint that reflect the positive results of past successful experimentation. It is these patterns of constraints that serve as criteria for demarcation.