[asa] on science and meta-science

From: Keith Miller <keithbmill@gmail.com>
Date: Wed Nov 04 2009 - 16:18:27 EST

Gregory wrote:

 First, can I ask if this is the ‘Understanding Science’ page, from UCC,
> which you think is ‘quite good’?
> http://understandingscience.ucc.ie/pages/editorial.htm

No, the site I was thinking of is:

I like this site because it emphasizes how science is actually done. I does
not promote some single simplistic linear "scientific method." It also
recognizes the interactions and cross fertilization with other social and
cultural factors. It favors an iterative complex circular pattern of
observation, idea generation, testing, application, and social/cultural

 Wrt your language in your message, I don’t understand why you choose
> certain phrases. What is NOS? You cite the acronym NOS after writing ‘the
> nature and methods of science.’ Is this an acronym of your making or do you
> borrow it from someone?

> I find it wrong in two ways, one already mentioned about ‘the method of
> science’ by myself and Cameron, among others, though you have pluralised
> 'methods.' But also, and it is probably just my own fetish with clarity, but
> I consider the phrase ‘THE NATURE OF’ to be one of the emptiest phrases in
> the English language! I’ve said it here before, but ask you to think about
> it – what does it add to the meaning of a word, by prefacing it with 'the
> nature of'? First, it privileges ‘nature,’ which imbalances the playing
> field in the Academy. And one could just as easily write ‘THE CHARACTER OF’
> and get the same effect (i.e. communicative understanding). Or one could
> just leave both phrases out and speak about ‘science’ and ‘nature’ and
> ‘method’ on their own. I consider the phrase ‘ the nature of’ to be one of
> the pillars of ‘naturalism’ because it sticks a view in our heads that
> ‘nature’ is all there is, even if that is unintentional.

 The "nature of science," often referred to by the acronym NoS, is the
standard phrase in the science education literature to refer to both the
philosophical assumptions that undergird the scientific enterprise and the
practical manner in which science research is conducted. There is quite an
extensive professional literature in this area -- and educational research
in this area is rapidly growing.

I know that you are strongly opposed to MN as a description of the practice
and limitations of the natural sciences. I doubt if there is anything that
I can say to change your perspective. I will just say that I am not a
philosopher (or an historian), but that I do regularly discuss these issues
with both professional academic historians (most recently with the History
of Science Department faculty at the University of Oklahoma) and
philosophers of science. I am not defending something that I made up, but
merely reflecting what I see as the best historical and philosophical
scholarship. The view of MN that I have tried to articulate is the same as
that taught here at my university in the philosophy department. It is also
the same as that articulated from an historical perspective by Ted Davis on
this forum. Similarly, it is also the same as taught by the professional
science educators with whom I interact. And it is the same as summarized by
Paul DeVries when he coined the term.


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Received on Wed Nov 4 16:19:05 2009

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