314Lecture9-UnderdeterminationOnline

314Lecture9-UnderdeterminationOnline - Lecture Nine:...

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Lecture Nine: Underdetermination (pp. 162 - 186) One practical question is: why should we take the antirealist account of science seriously? We are all familiar with some of the technical terminologies and theoretical concepts used by science, and most scientists seem to believe that they are actually manipulating atoms or genes or whatever the unobservable entity may be. The following is an argument that has traditionally been a significant motivation for the anti-realist stance. There are often several theories that are compatible with available evidence. When the available data is not sufficient to determine which possible theory is true, it is a case of underdetermination. Underdetermination is a part of life. Imagine that you are waiting for a train. It is late. Why is it late? It could be engine problems, staff shortage, signal failure, heavy traffic, etc. Often it is enough to think of a list of reasons that might explain the lateness, but we can’t make a judgment as to what is the actual explanation. We don’t know enough about the situation to choose the most probable reason why the train is late. In such a case, it may be helpful to know the reason the train is late, but it is not imperative that we know the real reason. However, there are situations in which even in the face of uncertainty we may be required to make a decision. For example, a doctor may need to make a diagnosis that is underdetermined by the symptoms. A serious pain in the stomach may be appendicitis or an infection of some kind. Sometimes the best available evidence can only help us to narrow down the choices to a few possibilities, but we may be unable to pinpoint the exact cause. Physicians frequently find themselves in this predicament. Weak underdetermination Weak underdetermination refers to a case in which there is a theory T, and all the known evidence is consistent with T. However there is also another theory, T2 that happens to be consistent with all available data as well. Since both T and T2 are consistent with the data, there is no good reason why T is true and not T2. One form of underdeterminism says that we should suspend judgment if we have more than one theory that is able to explain the evidence. This is the weak form of underdetermination. This happens frequently in the scientific world. Usually researchers try to develop experiments that will give results that establish which theory is the better theory. Gathering more precise evidence may resolve the problem of weak underdetermination. For instance, in astronomy as telescopes improved, astronomers were able to gather more observational data that helped scientists choose between Ptolemaic and Copernican theories. 1
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314Lecture9-UnderdeterminationOnline - Lecture Nine:...

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