, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 79-83
Date: 28 Dec 2010

Alan Chalmers: The scientist’s atom and the philosopher’s stone: how science succeeded and philosophy failed to gain knowledge of atoms

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Alan Chalmers has strong views about what does and does not deserve to be considered “science.”

Some years ago the same author wrote What is this thing called science? an introduction to philosophy of science for students not majoring in philosophy.

In this book he examines a number of historical developments that are frequently cited in accounts of the origin of the outlook he calls “atomism”– the doctrine that all materials are composed of microscopic components that account for the properties of those materials. In most such episodes the author finds reason to challenge conventional understandings—such as those generally used in introductory chemistry courses—and to take issue with specialized historians and philosophers.

Chalmers holds that “testing the adequacy of scientific claims requires active experimental intervention.” (10)

Numbers in parentheses indicate page-numbers in the book under review.

Only theories that suggest novel experiments (and can be confirmed by results of thos