Bogen and Woodward’s data-phenomena distinction, forms of theory-ladenness, and the reliability of data
- 297 Downloads
Some twenty years ago, Bogen and Woodward challenged one of the fundamental assumptions of the received view, namely the theory-observation dichotomy and argued for the introduction of the further category of scientific phenomena. The latter, Bogen and Woodward stressed, are usually unobservable and inferred from what is indeed observable, namely scientific data. Crucially, Bogen and Woodward claimed that theories predict and explain phenomena, but not data. But then, of course, the thesis of theory-ladenness, which has it that our observations are influenced by the theories we hold, cannot apply. On the basis of two case studies, I want to show that this consequence of Bogen and Woodward’s account is rather unrealistic. More importantly, I also object against Bogen and Woodward’s view that the reliability of data, which constitutes the precondition for data-to-phenomena inferences, can be secured without the theory one seeks to test. The case studies I revisit have figured heavily in the publications of Bogen and Woodward and others: the discovery of weak neutral currents and the discovery of the zebra pattern of magnetic anomalies. I show that, in the latter case, data can be ignored if they appear to be irrelevant from a particular theoretical perspective (TLI) and that, in the former case, the tested theory can be critical for the assessment of the reliability of the data (TLA). I argue that both TLI and TLA are much stronger senses of theory-ladenness than the classical thesis and that neither TLI nor TLA can be accommodated within Bogen and Woodward’s account.
KeywordsData Phenomena Bogen and Woodward Reliability Theory-ladenness
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Duhem, P. (1962). The aim and structure of physical theory (trans: Wiener, P.P., Second French edition). Princeton: Princeton U.P.Google Scholar
- Galison P. (1987) How experiments end. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- Hacking I. (1983) Representing and intervening. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Heidelberger M. (2003) Theory-ladenness and scientific instruments in experimentation. In: Radder H. (eds) The philosophy of scientific experimentation. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA, pp 138–151Google Scholar
- Kaiser, M. (1995). The independence of scientific phenomena. In W. Herfel, W. Krajewski, I. Niiniluoto, & R. Wojcicki (Eds.), Theories and models in scientific process. Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of Science and the Humanities (Vol. 44, pp. 179–200). Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
- Mason, R. (2003). In N. Oreskes & H. LeGrand (Eds.), Plate tectonics: An insider’s history of the modern theory of the earth. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.Google Scholar
- Mason R. G. (1958) A magnetic survey off the west coast of the United States between latitudes 32° and 36°N. and longitudes 121° and 128°W. Royal Astronomy Society. Geophysical Journal 1: 320–329Google Scholar
- Lubkin G.B. (1973) CERN and NAL groups claim evidence for neutral currentss. Physics Today 26: 17–19Google Scholar
- Perkins D. (1997) Gargamelle and the discovery of neutral currents. In: Hoddeson L. (eds) The rise of the standard model: Particle physics in the 1960s and 1970s. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Schindler, S. (under review). Real phenomena vs. background noise: The discovery of neutral currents. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics.Google Scholar
- Woodward, J. (2000). Data, phenomena, and reliability. Philosophy of Science, Vol. 67, Supplement. Proceedings of the 1998 Biennial Meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association, Part II: Symposia Papers, pp. S163–S179.Google Scholar