Science and realism
#1
Recently I happened to debate about the following.

My claim is that realism and idealism both are belief/belief systems. Religion base it on idealism and science base it on realism!

Thus there is no such a thing like science without realism!

I cited

//There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination.—Daniel Dennett, //

ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_science

Am I correct when I say there is no such a thing as science without realism? If not why?

An atheist is claiming contrary!
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#2
(28-Apr-2013, 12:07 PM)ramesh Wrote: I cited

//There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination.—Daniel Dennett, //

ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_science

I don't know why you quoted this. Because this part has nothing to do with realism or beliefs of Science. What Daniel Dennett is trying to say, as per my understanding is that, there is some philosophy behind Science.

(28-Apr-2013, 12:07 PM)ramesh Wrote: Recently I happened to debate about the following.

My claim is that realism and idealism both are belief/belief systems. Religion base it on idealism and science base it on realism!

I would be more careful with the use of phrase like "belief system". It means more than "set of assumptions". Because 'belief systems' have to be also evaluated for their rationality. So one can't equate 'belief in unicorns' with 'belief in horses' as both being 'belief systems'


(28-Apr-2013, 12:07 PM)ramesh Wrote: Thus there is no such a thing like science without realism!

Am I correct when I say there is no such a thing as science without realism? If not why?

An atheist is claiming contrary!

Frankly, I used to think so as well. But after googling about all this, it seems to be a slightly-debatable topic.

What most pages do agree is that Science subscribes to Philosophical Naturalism. So basically it assumes that universe exists and is governed by invariant natural laws. I would think that this assumption will lead to Philosophical realism as Idealism inherently seems to demand a supernatural conscious element. Some more description on Naturalism and science can be found here

As a side note, realism has multiple meanings and its best to use the exact term, which is Philosophical realism. Scientific realism is a different concept and should not be confused with this.
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#3
A question that seems to be implied by the OP is "When Science and Religions both deep down have assumptions, why must freethinkers trust one over the other?" The following is a response to that FAQ, with an emphasis on how the faithful and the science-minded differ in the way they choose and operate upon beliefs.

Any belief, either about facts or values, has assumptions. A freethinker, while acknowledging that assumptions are indispensable, chooses beliefs by examining the degree and kind of assumptions. Here is a cartoon that illustrates what degree and kind of assumptions a freethinker employing reason and evidence prefers. In short, assumptions should be few and relied on only to the degree necessary, and their consequences must be comparable to observed outcomes. The notion of 'simple explanation' in scientific circles can be quite different from those in religious circles, and therefore this clarification on what 'simple' means by Eliezer Yudkowsky can be useful here. A freethinker does not prefer Science over Religion because one is exclusively free of assumptions, but does so because the assumptions and methods of Science have yielded more vindicated anticipations than those of Religion.

Besides acknowledging that all beliefs have assumptions, freethinkers also acknowledge that beliefs have consequences. Even unfalsifiable beliefs have behavioral consequences. For instance, the same mountain that is now commonly referred to as Everest was believed to be a deity called Chomolungma by the surrounding natives and was believed to be nothing more than a topographic extreme by European explorers. The technically unfalsifiable belief that the peak is a deity had the consequence of the natives maintaining a worshipful distance from the same, whereas the worldview of the explorers had the consequence of them viewing it as a sporting challenge. Freethinkers, on understanding how the beliefs promoted by religion have consequences on human potential and human dignity, are especially wary of remitting scrutiny of religious beliefs.
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#4
Dear Kanad Kanhere and arvindiyer

By realism I mean that the things exist independent of the observer and I think, runs basic to all types of realism.

1.//What Daniel Dennett is trying to say, as per my understanding is that, there is some philosophy behind Science.//

Which philosophy precisely? Kanad Kanhere?

2.// it seems to be a slightly-debatable topic.//

Do you mean atheism has no firm view that science has no existence without realism?

3. //Am I correct when I say there is no such a thing as science without realism? If not why?//

I did not get any specific answer, I think.


4. In the absence of realism what will be the basic assumptions of science if any?

5. It is said that science and religion do not have common ground. I understood the reason to be realism and idealism as basis to those respectively and also confirmed the same in atheistic debates. With the science becoming independent of realism will there be common ground?


I think I did not get the answer to these questions at all! May I get it? To the point answers will be appreciated, I think.
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#5
Dear arvindiyer

I appreciate your response, but it would be too early to debate/discuss of the implications which you see in my questions. Unless we reach firm decision about the exact relation between science and realism moving further will be waste!
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#6
Just to make sure that the terms below are used in their accepted senses, 'scientific method' is used in the sense repeatedly clarified in these forums (for instance, here and here) and 'realism' in the sense used by Russell in Chapters I and II of The Problems of Philosophy (available via Google Books). A patient reading of those book chapters may forestall questions like those in the OP.

A search for the 'exact relation' between Science and Realism maybe a futile exercise for the following reasons. One cannot be viewed as an ideological offspring of the other in the sense that Christianity inherits most of its tenets and much of its scripture from Judaism. 'Science' and 'Realism' are not organized movements whose inheritance can be thus traced, but historical labels that are more recent than the activities or ideas they describe. Nor can one be viewed as a subdiscipline of the other like say biochemistry subsumed in chemistry, because unlike biochemistry which borrows its methods from chemistry and applies them in a organismic context, there are no methods from 'realism' that 'science' borrows. For practical purposes, science is the method because 'Science' itself is shorthand for the scientific method in a manner of speaking. Realism itself has no 'methods' but its foundational concept, namely what Russell calls 'public neutral objects', is also treated as foundational to the scientific method. What we can indeed say about Realism and Science is that the fundamental concept of realism is compatible with the scientific method and greatly facilitates its communication and comprehension, whereas the fundamental concept of Idealism though not per se incompatible with the scientific method does not facilitate the scientific method the way the concept of a 'public neutral object' does.

In a way, demanding the 'exact relation' between Science and Realism and acting as if the status of the scientific method is somehow suspect pending a spelling out of this relation, is like refusing to take Theoretical Physics seriously unless the 'exact relation' between Mathematics and Science is spelt out. Mathematics does seem unreasonably effective in describing the observable universe, but just because its effectiveness is not fully understood doesn't mean it cannot be exploited by promote understanding of the Universe!
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#7
Dear Arvindeyar

Realism is philosophy or a belief that things exist independent of the observer.

1. Can the science work without subscribing to this belief?

Yes or No? Do you mean answer is not possible? Or exact answer is not possible?

Simple answer will do. I may get a better idea.

2.//Realism itself has no 'methods' but its foundational concept, namely what Russell calls 'public neutral objects', is also treated as foundational to the scientific method.//

If realism is not the only foundational to the scientific method what else are foundational to the scientific method on par with the realism?


3. I think you left many questions unanswered of post 4


If you do not mistake, pointwise answers with little ambiguity will be appreciated.
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#8
Brevity is no insurance against ambiguity, because terseness doesn't always allow clarification. One insurance against ambiguity is to establish mutually agreed upon working definitions of terms used, preferably aligned to their standard usage. Javed Akhtar emphasizes the need for working definitions often, and this can help avoid weaseling and equivocation with words like 'spirituality'. This investment in working definition can save much trouble, is illustrated deftly in this article which is also linked often here. Hence the attempt in post #6 to disambiguate the meanings of often willfully misunderstood terms.

Having said that, let us come to the question raised above i.e. Can Science function without Realism? What are the foundations of Science that are 'at par' with Realism?

The only thing Science can't function without is the Scientific Method. Other 'isms' are associated with it largely in attempts to supply meta-narratives of Science as a human endeavour. There is no single definitive meta-narrative of what constitutes the human endeavour that is Science, any more than there is one for Sport or Religion. However, any activity maybe recognized as belonging to one or the other endeavour by observing some commonly occurring traits eg. activities analogous to worship and veneration belong to Religion and activities involving experiments to test claims belong to Science. Here is a list of some traits of scientific endeavours, which led to it being conveniently and aptly associated with certain 'isms', though none is synonymous with Science itself:

(i) Realism: In theory, it is possible for a scientist who believes that all objects in the world and in the lab are ideas in the 'Mind of God', to follow the Scientific Method to the letter by going through the motions, and report experimental results like "A heavier object (as imagined by the Mind of God) doesn't fall faster than a lighter object (as imagined by the Mind of God)." One thing to note is that even for someone attempting to understand the Mind of God, understanding is not furthered or promoted by repeatedly adding in the parts in parentheses above! It helps just as well to say "A heavier object doesn't fall faster than a lighter object." and function as if the objects were public and neutral. As the scientific enterprise concerns itself with the behavior of objects (eg. how they fall) rather than ontological claims about what they are(eg. 'public and neutral' or thoughts in the Mind of God), a scientist in the lab, irrespective of her ontological stance, functions as though Realism is what is being subscribed.

(ii) Falsificationism: Testable hypotheses are indispensable to the scientific method and the problem of induction precludes verificationism, thereby leading to falsificationism being treated as the philosophical underpinning of all scientific enterprise. However this paradigm, which only places the requirement of practicability of an experiment to test a claim, doesn't fully circumscribe scientific enterprise, especially those parts about how claims are arrived at in the first place. Many gedankenexperiments are in fact quite literally impracticable to perform, but the scientific claims they yield can later be operated upon in a falsificationist paradigm. This 'ism' too therefore is related and compatible with the scientific method though not synonymous.

(iii) Naturalism: A practitioner of the scientific method will run into fewer contradictions while functioning within a naturalist rather than mystical worldview because:
(1) Just like repeatedly saying 'object(as imagined in the Mind of God)' does not promote improving scientific description more than simply saying 'object', positing supernatural entities does not add explanatory power to our descriptions of natural phenomena.
(2) Treating the Principle of Uniformity in Nature i.e. 'Laws are discernible in Nature and they can be used to make predictions.' as a working assumption (related to the notion of background independence) likewise isn't subject to any more limitations than treating natural phenomena as inscrutable vagaries of a Supernatural Being.

The question of which of these 'isms' are 'on par with each other' in their importance to Science, first needs a working notion of what parity is here in the first place. From the perspective of an 'equal opportunity offender', there is parity among all organized religions in that all of them present challenges to living a life in accord to Reason to Compassion, even though there maybe mind-boggling diversity in their rituals and practices. Likewise one 'parity' which the 'isms' above share vis-a-vis the Scientific Method is a readier compatibility with the Scientific Method than their rival 'isms'.
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#9
(01-May-2013, 11:48 AM)ramesh Wrote: 2.// it seems to be a slightly-debatable topic.//

Do you mean atheism has no firm view that science has no existence without realism?

From "it seems to be a slightly-debatable topic." how did you arrive at that bizzare question? Atheism is just a position you hold when God claims have not met the burden of proof. As to Science's relation to realism just read Arvind's post (http://nirmukta.net/Thread-Science-and-r...31#pid8131 ).
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#10
Arvindiyer,


Your endeavor is great but little related to what I am seeking so far.

1. //The only thing Science can't function without is the Scientific Method. //

By science I mean material science and I think it scientific method is the only way of it. Thus when I talk of the basis of science I essentially talk of the scientific method. Thus you avoided the real answer I sought! I expect the same.

2.//Other 'isms' are associated with it largely in attempts to supply meta-narratives of Science as a human endeavour.//

The question implied on my part is whether the meta-narratives are must to sustain the science/scientific method? Can the science/method sustain without the meta-narratives? Are these meta-narratives independent of realism? If yes what are the basic assumptions of the science/method, if any? From where are they derived?The most important question being are these assumptions independent of the realism?


3.//As the scientific enterprise concerns itself with the behavior of objects (eg. how they fall) rather than ontological claims about what they are(eg. 'public and neutral' or thoughts in the Mind of God), a scientist in the lab, irrespective of her ontological stance, functions as though Realism is what is being subscribed.//

Does this in anyway suggest that scientific enterprise is without subscribing to the realism? I think It proves contrary!

4. In simple words: There are three isms on the one hand you described and on the other hand there is science/scientific method. The question I am asking is who is for whom? Are the former must for the later? If not what assumptions scientific method works on and are those independent of the former three isms you described?


Complications can easily be avoided if you people stick to the points raised alone. Now despite of repeatedly asking my basic question again and again I wonder if I will ever get any answers here IN THE INTEREST OF KNOWING BETTER the SCIENCE/ITS METHOD to which Atheism subscribes!
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#11
Dear Captain Mandrake,

// Atheism is just a position you hold when God claims have not met the burden of proof.//

I agree. But doesn't atheism subscribe to the science and scientific method?

If yes, isn't it is expected of atheism to know whether science/scientific method exists with or without realism?
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#12
(02-May-2013, 10:42 AM)ramesh Wrote: Dear Captain Mandrake,

// Atheism is just a position you hold when God claims have not met the burden of proof.//

I agree. But doesn't atheism subscribe to the science and scientific method?

If yes, isn't it is expected of atheism to know whether science/scientific method exists with or without realism?

The question to you was this.

From someone acknowledging something to be a debatable topic how did you come to " Do you mean atheism has no firm view that science has no existence without realism?" ?

Can you please explain. List all the assumptions you made to arrive at that question.
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