This paper outlines a defense of scientific realism against the pessimistic meta-induction which appeals to the phenomenon of the exponential growth of science. Here, scientific realism is defined as the view that our current successful scientific theories are mostly approximately true, and pessimistic meta-induction is the argument that projects the occurrence of past refutations of successful theories to the present concluding that many or most current successful scientific theories are false. The defense starts with the observation that at least 80% of all scientific work ever done has been done since 1950, proceeds with the claim that practically all of our most successful theories were entirely stable during that period of time, and concludes that the projection of refutations of successful theories to the present is unsound. In addition to this defense, the paper offers a framework through which scientific realism can be compared with two types of anti-realism. The framework is also of help to examine the relationships between these three positions and the three main arguments offered respectively in their support (No-miracle argument, pessimistic meta-induction, underdetermination).
KeywordsScientific realism Pessimistic meta-induction Exponential growth of science Empiricism No-miracles argument
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- de Solla Price D.J. (1963) Little science, big science. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Devitt M. (2008) Realism/anti-realism. In: Psillos S., Curd M. The Routledge companion to the philosophy of science. Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Fahrbach, L. (2009). The pessimistic meta-induction and the exponential growth of science. In A. Hieke & H. Leitgeb (Eds.), Reduction and elimination in philosophy and the sciences. Proceedings of the 31th international Wittgenstein symposium (to appear).Google Scholar
- Fahrbach, L., & Beisbart, C. (2009). The pessimistic meta-induction and constructive empiricism (manuscript).Google Scholar
- Friedman M. (1981) Theoretical explanation. In: Healey R. (eds) Reduction, time and reality. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Haub, C. (2002). How many people have ever lived on earth? http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx
- Hoyningen-Huene P. (1993) Reconstructing scientific revolutions. In: Thomas S. (eds) Kuhn’s philosophy of science. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- Kukla A. (1998) Studies in scientific realism. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Ladyman J. (2002) Understanding philosophy of science. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Leplin J. (1997) A novel defence of scientific realism. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Meadows J. (1974) Communication in science. Butterworths, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Okasha S. (2002) Philosophy of science. A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Psillos P. (1999) Scientific realism: How science tracks truth. Routledge, New York, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Reynolds, G. (2005). http://instapundit.com/archives/025289.php
- Sanderson, A. R., Dugoni, B. L., Hoffer, T. B., & Myers, S. L. (1999). Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report 1999. http://www.norc.uchicago.edu/studies/sed/sed1999.htm
- Stanford, P. K. Reading Nature: The interpretation of scientific theories. In L. Sklar (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the philosophy of science. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming).Google Scholar
- Tenopir C., King D.W. (2004) Communication patterns of engineers. IEEE Press, Wiley-Inter- scienceGoogle Scholar
- Williamson T. (2006) Must do better. In: Greenough P., Lynch M. Truth and realism. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 177–181Google Scholar
- Wolfe, R. M. (2007). Research and development in industry: 2003. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf07314/.