Have the bunnies ever noticed that in the dog days of summer, when nothing is happening, and even when it is, there always emerges an article on there is no such thing as science, or science is nothing special. Well, the New York Times has done the usual and dredged up flem from another old philosopher who would enjoy a day in the sunday papers. It agrees with the editor's stoned high school fantasies about science, a subject that they hated, just hated. Amongst their other bad habits, editors and journalists are saps for post modernist denigration of science. They don't quite understand why others value something they never understood, or tried to, and they want some of that.
A bunny, or at least Willard, might start with the ontology but at times it is easier to say what is not and why. For example take the writing of a poem, something that the author of the article under consideration, James Blachowicz, did. He relates how a poet, Stephan Spender, described the process of creating a poem, how Spender begins with a first draft, how he then evaluates the draft as to whether it expresses what he wanted to express and whether the form was pleasing to him. The poet then modifies the draft to optimize the two criteria.
Blachowicz claims that this editing process is similar to "those associated with scientific investigation", and he generalizes his guff to wondering whether there is such a thing as a scientific method. Eli, were he not such an understanding bunny, would think this is clear evidence of confusion, of course it is hard to be more understanding than some such at ATTP who is, IEHO, too willing to excuse fuzzy thoughts. But, dear bunnies let us forge forward.
Could a poem be a work of science? What would poets be required to do? The first criteria would be not whether the poem expressed what the poetry team wanted to express but that it accurately described the emotion that they were trying to describe, the second, that the poem was consistent with related poems that had been accepted by the poetry community. If not, the poet would have to explain why. A pleasing thing to a good poetry team would be if the poets could say, although there was some inconsistency with past work, how theirs extended and enlarged understanding of the emotions under consideration. Of course, a terse and powerful poem that captured the source of many emotions would be meet with a stronger positive reception.
In other words, poetry would be characterized by consistency, consensus and consilience, which it is not. No loss to poetry, but then again poetry is not science although some comes close.
Now Eli is fond of a good argument, meaning one that leads to careful thought, but Blachowicz goes three year old, segueing into a disputation about "justice" and "courage" and how neither can be defined although everybunny knows what they are. Well sorry, justice and courage are social constructs, and the definition varies with time and place. To think about Blachowicz' example
When Socrates asked “What is justice?” there was never any doubt that his listeners knew what the word “justice” meant. This is confirmed by the fact that Socrates and his listeners could agree on examples of justice. Defining justice, on the other hand — that is, being able to explain what it was conceptually that all these examples had in common — was something else altogether.is to fall right down the Rabett hole. People and societies do not agree on what justice is. On the other hand electrons, climate sensitivity, DNA, these all have definitions that scientists agree on, although they may disagree about the numerical values of some and try and improve the precision and accuracy of others. It is the agreement on definitions and other basics that allows scientists to talk to each other. Agreeing to definitions, such as what is a meter, what is a kilogram and so forth are the charge of scientific organizations such as IUPAC. Eli wonders if philosophers have similar mechanism for agreeing on the meaning of justice. He suspects not, but then again, IEHO this entire section of Blachowicz' writing is simply a confusion, a smoke screen.
For what you ask, well for a comment on Kepler's studies of the orbit of Mars. Long and short, Kepler determined after much work that the orbit was an ellipse, after rejecting a circle and then an oval. For those interested, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has many of the papers on Kepler's notes which are extensive. But where did the idea of a circle come from, as some of the commenters on Blachowicz' piece note, it came from philosophers, and in their case from the kind of esthetic argument that Blachowicz uses. Kepler was not happy about that
My first error, was to suppose that the path of the planet is a perfect circle, a supposition that was all the more noxious a thief of time the more it was endowed with the authority of all philosophers, and the more convenient it was for metaphysics in particular.”Kepler tried an oval, but it did not work very well, and then an ellipse which did. Blachowicz sees this in a pecular light
Kepler could have hammered out a patchwork equation that would have represented the oval orbit of Mars. It would have fit the facts better than the earlier circle hypothesis. But it would have failed to meet the second criterion that all such explanation requires: that it be simple, with a single explanatory principle devoid of tacked-on ad hoc exceptions, analogous to the case of courage as acting in the face of great fear, except for running away, tying one’s shoelace and yelling profanities.Simplicity is nice, but not necessary, this argument fails on the same ad hoc esthetic basis as the circle, indeed, except for the simplest situations there are often multiple principles at work which must be teased apart and Blachowicz himself describes one.
But why, as the saying goes, does science work? Blachowicz' answer is
If scientific method is only one form of a general method employed in all human inquiry, how is it that the results of science are more reliable than what is provided by these other forms? I think the answer is that science deals with highly quantified variables and that it is the precision of its results that supplies this reliability. But make no mistake: Quantified precision is not to be confused with a superior method of thinking.Which, make no mistake, IEHO is a mistake. Scientific results are not all highly quantified, indeed many are not quantified at all. Consider anatomy if you will. What science and the scientific method provide, as Kepler showed, is insistence on checking either the scientists own results, or the results of others. This is, as it were, close to the viewpoint of Popper. Of course, again IEHO, Kuhn does a better job of describing how scientists work, their method as it were. The scientific method does not require quantified precision (though that is often good), it does require careful checking of any result and a delineation of the conditions under which the result is to be trusted.