View Single Post
Old 25th August 2019, 04:49 PM   #524
Penultimate Amazing
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 12,535
So the question was:
Can you point to any actual instance, in recent times, where the philosophy of science has led to the formulation and/or the acceptance (or rejection) of some hypothesis, in a way that wouldn't have been possible without bringing in philosophy of science? Some concrete example of the utility of the philosophy of science, not just general opinions of individual scientists?
And Chanakya concedes that I never claimed there were any such examples. However here is an example I know of:

Background, Ernst May in his 1961 essay "Cause and effect in biology" in Science pointed out that the conceptions of causality found in mainstream philosophy and he set out the ways that causality operates in biology, in particular that biology describes two kinds of causes, the proximate and the ultimate and that research will focus on one or the other and that it is a mistake to conflate the two.

Kevin Laland wrote a paper in 2011, also in Science called "Cause and Effect in Biology Revisited: Is Mayr’s Proximate-Ultimate Dichotomy Still Useful?"
In this he points out that this distinction does not necessary hold for certain kinds of research:
Mayr’s unidirectional characterization of causation encourages focus on single cause/effect relations within systems rather than on broader trends, feedback cycles, or the tracing of causal influences throughout systems (8, 9, 17).It may also hinder the empirical investigation of evolutionary causes if the role of proximate processes goes unrecognized. This has consequences not only for biologists’ ability to break new ground and integrate subfields within biology, but also influences biologists’ view on how their discipline is connected to other sciences, including the humanities. The fact that humans (and other animals) learn culturally is indeed part of their proximate biology, but it is also an aspect of our evolutionary biology. The biological sciences might now be better served by a new “reciprocal” conception of causation.
Cultural learning is the focus of one of his own hypotheses and he has described this and the series of experiments he undertook to support it in his book "Darwin's Unfinished Symphony".

Briefly his hypothesis is that the cultural behaviours of teaching and learning influenced the late stage human evolution and that these evolved from earlier copying behaviours in which the copying had evolved to become more and more precise. He has also hypothesised that the difference between human teaching and learning behaviour and that of our closest relatives is that we can successfully employ co-operation in learning.

So here we have a case where a scientist has argued the need for a science philosophic concept to be updated in order for certain kinds of hypotheses to be made and also has been the author of one such hypothesis.
The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"
Robin is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top