Re: philosophy, science, & philosophy of science

From: george murphy (
Date: Mon Sep 02 2002 - 12:46:04 EDT

  • Next message: John W Burgeson: "New society formed" wrote:

    > George Murphy wrote:
    > > I am ambivalent about the proposals for teaching the philosophy of
    > > science at this level, having in mind the following from
    >Bernard's 1865
    > > _An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine_:
    > >
    > Quote:
    > "In a word, if men of science are useful to philosophers, and
    > philosophers to men of science, men of science remain free, none the
    > less; and masters in their own house; as for myself, I think that men
    > of science achieve their discoveries, their theories and their science
    > apart from philosophers. ... As for Bacon and other more modern
    > philosophers who try a general systematization of precepts for
    > scientific research, they may seem alluring to people who look at
    > science only from a distance; but works like theirs are of no use to
    > experienced scientists; and by false simplification of things, they
    > mislead men who wish to devote themselves to cultivating science."
    > Unquote:
    > [snip]
    > I suspect that Bernard is partly considering that medicine is more
    > like an art than a science. Even today, for those who have the
    > luxury to practice like a Marcus Welby, MD, medicine is still an art.

             But what Bernard was arguing was precisely that medicine
    could be & should
    be scientific - though he was realistic enough to know that in his
    time it could
    hardly be said to be completely a science.

    > I would argue that philosophy is a very good place to get people to
    > think about "what is truth". (Pilate, although viewed as the
    >"bad guy",
    > actually asks a very good question.)

             Pilate was a politician/military governor who probably had
    the contempt of
    many "practical" men for concerns about "truth." But the scene in
    John is ironic:
    Pilate asks "What is truth" when the one we know (from Jesus' words
    earlier in the
    gospel) to be "the way, thr truth and the life" is standing right in
    front of him.
    What's at stake here is a personal, rather than a propositional,
    udnerstanding of

    > However, a course in philosophy
    > will only help if you have a good teacher. Although I am sure there
    > are some exceptions, I seem to recall in my K-12 experience that
    > they typically put some incompetent (i.e., not just inexperienced)
    > PE teacher on the job of teaching science and would probably do
    > the same for any philosophy course.
    > Add to this the fact that popular books (insert the usual list of
    > characters both pro and con for some particular position) are
    > taken to be serious books of science by the general public. Real
    > science books are difficult to follow for the general public, are very
    > conservative about speculation, generally tend to minimize cultural
    > importation, and tend to avoid drawing metaphysical conclusions.
    > There are no pile drives, no bar fights, and no cheap love scenes. In
    > short, they're dull and boring.
    > So we have a public dumbed-down by TV, and now we hope to
    > education them properly about science. It's definitely true that
    > the problem is partly education, but there is a much deeper
    > infrastructral problem and a nasty feed-back loop to overcome to
    > boot.

         I would distinguish between popularizations by real scientists & those by
    journalists & other writers whose knowledge of science is only from a distance.
    E.g., Einstein & Infeld's _The Evolution of Physics_ is excellent. & many
    popularizations such as Hawking's _A Brief History of Time_ are
    objectionable only
    when the writer gets away from the science itself & tries to play theologian.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

    > by Grace alone we proceed,
    > Wayne

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