Teaching philosophy of science to scientists: why, what and how
- 761 Downloads
This paper provides arguments to philosophers, scientists, administrators and students for why science students should be instructed in a mandatory, custom-designed, interdisciplinary course in the philosophy of science. The argument begins by diagnosing that most science students are taught only conventional methodology: a fixed set of methods whose justification is rarely addressed. It proceeds by identifying seven benefits that scientists incur from going beyond these conventions and from acquiring abilities to analyse and evaluate justifications of scientific methods. It concludes that teaching science students these skills makes them better scientists. Based on this argument, the paper then analyses the standard philosophy of science curriculum, and in particular its adequacy for teaching science students. It is argued that the standard curriculum on the one hand lacks important analytic tools relevant for going beyond conventional methodology—especially with respect to non-epistemic normative aspects of scientific practice—while on the other hand contains many topics and tools that are not relevant for the instruction of science students. Consequently, the optimal way of training science students in the analysis and evaluation of scientific methods requires a revision of the standard curriculum. Finally, the paper addresses five common characteristics of students taking such a course, which often clash with typical teaching approaches in philosophy. Strategies how best to deal with these constraints are offered for each of these characteristics.
KeywordsMethodology Science education Philosophy of science curriculum
For valuable discussions and insightful comments I thank Hanne Andersen, Mieke Boon, John Cantwell, Marion Godman, Sven Ove Hansson, Jesper Jerkert, Inkeri Koskinen, Jaakko Kuorikoski, Caterina Marchionni, Samuli Pöyhönen, Kristina Rolin, and the audiences at Helsinki University, KTH and at the 2013 Meeting of the German Society for Philosophy of Science in Hannover. Remaining mistakes are my own. Financial support from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) and the Finnish Centre of Excellence in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences (TINT) is gratefully acknowledged.
- Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
- Bortolotti, L. (2008). An introduction to the philosophy of science. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
- Cable, M. (2005). Calibration: A technician’s guide. ISA.Google Scholar
- Chalmers, A. F. (1999). What is this thing called science? (3rd ed.). Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.Google Scholar
- COPE. (2011). Code of conduct and best practice guidelines for journal editors. http://publicationethics.org/files/Code_of_conduct_for_journal_editors_Mar11.pdf. Accessed June 12th, 2013.
- Curd, M., & Cover, J. A. (2012). Philosophy of science: The central issues (2nd ed.). New York: WW Norton.Google Scholar
- Doran, P. (2006). Cold, hard facts. The New York Times. July 27, 2006.Google Scholar
- Ennis, R. (1979). Research in philosophy of science bearing on science education. In P. Asquith & H. Kyburg (Eds.), Current research in philosophy of science (pp. 138–170). East Lansing, MI: Philosophy of Science Association.Google Scholar
- European Commission. (2008). The European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF). Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. http://ec.europa.eu/education/pub/pdf/general/eqf/broch_en.pdf. Accessed May 15th, 2013.
- Hansson, S. O. (2012). Risk. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition). <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/risk/>. Accessed June 15th, 2013.
- Hertwig, R., & Ortmann, A. (2001). Experimental practices in economics: a methodological challenge for psychologists? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(3), 383–403.Google Scholar
- Hodson, D. (1991). Philosophy of science and science education. In M. Matthews (Ed.), History, philosophy, and science teaching (pp. 19–32). Toronto, ON: OISE Press.Google Scholar
- IPCC. (2007). Summary for policymakers. In S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K. B. Averyt, M. Tignor, & H. L. Miller (Eds.), Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Israel, M., & Hay, I. (2006). Research ethics for social scientists. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Limited.Google Scholar
- Kitcher, P. (2003). Science, truth and democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Ladyman, J. (2002). Understanding philosophy of science. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Macrina, F. L. (2005). Scientific integrity. Washington, DC: ASM Press.Google Scholar
- Matthews, M. (1994). Science teaching: The role of history and philosophy of science. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Mazur, E. (1997). Peer instruction: A user’s manual. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Medawar, P. B. (1963). Is the scientific paper a fraud. The Listener, 70(12), 377–378.Google Scholar
- Medawar, P. B. (1969). Induction and intuition in scientific thought. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Ontario Council of Academic Vice Presidents (OCAV). (2008). Guidelines for university undergraduate degree level expectations. http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/handbook/general/OCAV_Guidelines_2005.pdf. Last accessed May 16th, 2013.
- Rosenberg, A. (2005). Philosophy of science a contemporary introduction (3rd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Salmon, M. H., Earman, J., Glymour, C., Lennox, J., Schaffner, K. F., Salmon, W. C., et al. (1999). Introduction to the philosophy of science: A text by members of the department of the history and philosophy of science of the University of Pittsburgh. Indianapolis, IN: Hacket Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- Varian, H. R. (1997). How to build an economic model in your spare time. The American Economist, 41, 3–10.Google Scholar