philosophy_of_science   607

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What is science and how it really works
"Scientific advances have transformed the world. However, science can sometimes get things wrong, and at times, disastrously so. Understanding the basis for scientific claims and judging how much confidence we should place in them is essential for individual choice, societal debates, and development of public policy and laws. We must ask: what is the basis of scientific claims? How much confidence should we put in them? What is defined as science and what is not? This book synthesizes a working definition of science and its properties, as explained through the eyes of a practicing scientist, by integrating advances from philosophy, psychology, history, sociology, and anthropology into a holistic view. Crucial in our political climate, the book fights the myths of science often portrayed to the public. Written for a general audience, it also enables students to better grasp methodologies and helps professional scientists to articulate what they do and why."

--- I realize the "tu quoque" quality of _my_ combining those last two tags to characterize someone else.
to:NB  books:noted  science_as_a_social_process  philosophy_of_science  philosophy_of_science_by_scientists  to_be_shot_after_a_fair_trial 
4 days ago by cshalizi
Causally Interpreting Intersectionality Theory | Philosophy of Science: Vol 83, No 1
Social scientists report difficulties in drawing out testable predictions from the literature on intersectionality theory. We alleviate that difficulty by showing that some characteristic claims of the intersectionality literature can be interpreted causally. The formalism of graphical causal modeling allows claims about the causal effects of occupying intersecting identity categories to be clearly represented and submitted to empirical testing. After outlining this causal interpretation of intersectional theory, we address some concerns that have been expressed in the literature claiming that membership in demographic categories can have causal effects.
philosophy_of_science  causality  race  gender  explanation 
27 days ago by rvenkat
Regularist Approach to Mechanistic Type-Level Explanation | The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science | Oxford Academic
Most defenders of the new mechanistic approach accept ontic constraints for successful scientific explanation (Illari [2013]; Craver [2014]). The minimal claim is that scientific explanations have objective truthmakers, namely, mechanisms that exist in the physical world, independent of any observer, and that cause or constitute the phenomena-to-be-explained. How can this idea be applied to type-level explanations? Many authors at least implicitly assume that in order for mechanisms to be the truthmakers of type-level explanation, they need to be regular (Andersen [2012]; Sheredos [2016]). One problem of this assumption is that most mechanisms are (highly) stochastic in the sense that they ‘fail more often than they succeed’ (Bogen [2005]; Andersen [2012]). How can a mechanism type whose instances are more likely not to produce an instance of a particular phenomenon type be the truthmaker of the explanation of that particular phenomenon type? In this article, I will give an answer to this question. I will analyse the notion of regularity and I will discuss Andersen's suggestion for how to cope with stochastic mechanisms. I will argue that her suggestion cannot account for all kinds of stochastic mechanisms and does not provide an answer as to why regularity grounds type-level explanation. According to my analysis, a mechanistic type-level explanation is true if and only if at least one of the following two conditions is satisfied: the mechanism brings about the phenomenon more often than any other phenomenon (‘comparative regularity’) or the phenomenon is more often brought about by the mechanism than by any other mechanism or causal sequence (‘comparative reverse regularity’).
philosophy_of_science  explanation  predictive_state_representation 
27 days ago by rvenkat
Are More Details Better? On the Norms of Completeness for Mechanistic Explanations | The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science | Oxford Academic
Completeness is an important but misunderstood norm of explanation. It has recently been argued that mechanistic accounts of scientific explanation are committed to the thesis that models are complete only if they describe everything about a mechanism and, as a corollary, that incomplete models are always improved by adding more details. If so, mechanistic accounts are at odds with the obvious and important role of abstraction in scientific modelling. We respond to this characterization of the mechanist’s views about abstraction and articulate norms of completeness for mechanistic explanations that have no such unwanted implications
philosophy_of_science  explanation 
29 days ago by rvenkat
On the Renormalization Group Explanation of Universality | Philosophy of Science: Vol 85, No 2
It is commonly claimed that the universality of critical phenomena is explained through particular applications of the renormalization group (RG). This article has three aims: to clarify the structure of the explanation of universality, to discuss the physics of such RG explanations, and to examine the extent to which universality is thus explained. The derivation of critical exponents proceeds via a real-space or a field-theoretic approach to the RG. Building on work by Mainwood, this article argues that these approaches ought to be distinguished: while the field-theoretic approach explains universality, the real-space approach fails to provide an adequate explanation.
renormalization  explanation  philosophy_of_science 
7 weeks ago by rvenkat
Multilevel Ensemble Explanations: A Case from Theoretical Biology | Perspectives on Science | MIT Press Journals
I analyze a well-known argument by Stuart Kauffman about complex systems and evolution to show it contains a hierarchy of non-mechanistic, non-causal explanations—which I would call, following Kauffman, “ensemble explanations”—quite closely resembling the explanations of the structural kind proposed in Huneman (2017), but lacking their absolute mathematical certainty, being based on results of non-exhaustive computer simulations. In Kauffman’s core argument ensemble explanations form an explanatory chain along a hierarchy of levels, where each explanans at one level gets itself recursively explained at the lower level. Explanations at adjacent levels turn out to be related not by mereological containment as in a multilevel mechanistic explanation, but by an analog to the relationship between two specifications at different levels of a specification/implementation hierarchy as understood by computer science. A mechanistic explanation grounds the whole hierarchy enabling the explanatory chain. Interestingly, the preliminary production of ensemble explanations enables the multilevel mechanistic explanations of systems manifesting what Bedau (1997) defines as weak emergence.
explanation  philosophy_of_science  philosophy_of_biology  multiscale_model  via:cshalizi 
7 weeks ago by rvenkat
Universality and RG Explanations | Perspectives on Science | MIT Press Journals
I discuss the concept of universality, specifically of physical phenomena, and even more specifically of the behavior of critical phenomena. In the philosophical literature, I believe, this concept has been widely misunderstood. In particular, a number of recent attempts to formulate what counts as an explanation for the possibility of universal behavior are misguided because they fail to properly understand what the explanandum is. A proper explanation involves recognizing that universality implies a kind of stability of behavior under perturbation. Furthermore, this stability itself requires explanation. I relate the explanation of the stability characteristic of universality to the autonomy of certain models or theories at continuum scales from those and scales of the molecular or atomic.
explanation  philosophy_of_science  renormalization  via:cshalizi 
7 weeks ago by rvenkat
Opinion | There Is No Scientific Method - The New York Times
If scientific method is only one form of a general method employed in all human inquiry, how is it that the results of science are more reliable than what is provided by these other forms? I think the answer is that science deals with highly quantified variables and that it is the precision of its results that supplies this reliability. But make no mistake: Quantified precision is not to be confused with a superior method of thinking.
philosophy_of_science 
9 weeks ago by ritzluna
Are There Both Causal and Non-Causal Explanations of a Rocket’s Acceleration? | Perspectives on Science | MIT Press Journals
"A typical textbook explanation of a rocket’s motion when its engine is fired appeals to momentum conservation: the rocket accelerates forward because its exhaust accelerates rearward and the system’s momentum must be conserved. This paper examines how this explanation works, considering three challenges it faces. First, the explanation does not proceed by describing the forces causing the rocket’s motion. Second, the rocket’s motion has a causal-mechanical explanation involving those forces. Third, if momentum conservation and the rearward motion of the rocket’s exhaust explain why the rocket accelerates forward, then presumably momentum conservation and the rocket’s forward motion likewise explain why the rocket emits exhaust rearward. Explanatory circularity threatens to follow from this pair of explanations. This paper examines how the conservation-law explanation works and how it is compatible with the causal-mechanical explanation. The paper argues that these two explanations do not explain precisely the same fact relative to the same contrast class. The paper interprets the two conservation-law explanations as non-causal and argues that they yield no explanatory circularity."
to:NB  philosophy_of_science  explanation  explanation_by_mechanisms 
january 2019 by cshalizi
Multilevel Ensemble Explanations: A Case from Theoretical Biology | Perspectives on Science | MIT Press Journals
"I analyze a well-known argument by Stuart Kauffman about complex systems and evolution to show it contains a hierarchy of non-mechanistic, non-causal explanations—which I would call, following Kauffman, “ensemble explanations”—quite closely resembling the explanations of the structural kind proposed in Huneman (2017), but lacking their absolute mathematical certainty, being based on results of non-exhaustive computer simulations. In Kauffman’s core argument ensemble explanations form an explanatory chain along a hierarchy of levels, where each explanans at one level gets itself recursively explained at the lower level. Explanations at adjacent levels turn out to be related not by mereological containment as in a multilevel mechanistic explanation, but by an analog to the relationship between two specifications at different levels of a specification/implementation hierarchy as understood by computer science. A mechanistic explanation grounds the whole hierarchy enabling the explanatory chain. Interestingly, the preliminary production of ensemble explanations enables the multilevel mechanistic explanations of systems manifesting what Bedau (1997) defines as weak emergence."
to:NB  explanation  explanation_by_mechanisms  philosophy_of_science  nk_networks  kauffman.stuart 
january 2019 by cshalizi
Universality and RG Explanations | Perspectives on Science | MIT Press Journals
"I discuss the concept of universality, specifically of physical phenomena, and even more specifically of the behavior of critical phenomena. In the philosophical literature, I believe, this concept has been widely misunderstood. In particular, a number of recent attempts to formulate what counts as an explanation for the possibility of universal behavior are misguided because they fail to properly understand what the explanandum is. A proper explanation involves recognizing that universality implies a kind of stability of behavior under perturbation. Furthermore, this stability itself requires explanation. I relate the explanation of the stability characteristic of universality to the autonomy of certain models or theories at continuum scales from those and scales of the molecular or atomic."
to:NB  renormalization  explanation  philosophy_of_science 
january 2019 by cshalizi
Model-Based Demography | SpringerLink
"Late in a career of more than sixty years, Thomas Burch, an internationally known social demographer, undertook a wide-ranging methodological critique of demography. This open access volume contains  a selection of resulting papers, some previously unpublished, some published but not readily accessible [from past meetings of The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population and its research committees, or from other small conferences and seminars]. Rejecting the idea that demography is simply a branch of applied statistics, his work views it as an autonomous and complete scientific discipline. When viewed from the perspective of modern philosophy of science, specifically the semantic or model-based school, demography is a balanced discipline, with a rich body of techniques and data, but also with more and better theories than generally recognized. As demonstrated in this book, some demographic techniques can also be seen as theoretical models, and some substantive/behavioral models, commonly rejected as theory because of inconsistent observations, are now seen as valuable theoretical models, for example demographic transition theory.  This book shows how demography can build a strong theoretical edifice on its broad and deep empirical foundation by adoption of the model-based approach to science. But the full-fruits of this approach will require demographers to make greater use of computer modeling [both macro- and micro-simulation], in the statement and manipulation of theoretical ideas, as well as for numerical computation.
"This book is open access under a CC BY license."
to:NB  books:noted  demography  downloaded  philosophy_of_science  modeling 
january 2019 by cshalizi
A state variable for crumpled thin sheets | Communications Physics
Despite the apparent ease with which sheets of paper are crumpled and tossed away, crumpling dynamics are often considered a paradigm of complexity. This arises from the infinite number of configurations that disordered, crumpled sheets can take. Here we experimentally show that key aspects of axially confined crumpled Mylar sheets have a very simple description; evolution of damage in crumpling dynamics can largely be described by a single global quantity—the total length of creases. We follow the evolution of the damage network in repetitively crumpled elastoplastic sheets, and show that the dynamics are deterministic, depending only on the instantaneous state of the crease network and not on the crumpling history. We also show that this global quantity captures the crumpling dynamics of a sheet crumpled for the first time. This leads to a remarkable reduction in complexity, allowing a description of a highly disordered system by a single state parameter.

-- I know what I'll do when someone throws *it's must be a complex systems* argument at me.
physics  fun  complexity  ?  teaching  philosophy_of_science 
december 2018 by rvenkat
Understanding explanation and scientific knowledge | Philosophy of science | Cambridge University Press
From antiquity to the end of the twentieth century, philosophical discussions of understanding remained undeveloped, guided by a 'received view' that takes understanding to be nothing more than knowledge of an explanation. More recently, however, this received view has been criticized, and bold new philosophical proposals about understanding have emerged in its place. In this book, Kareem Khalifa argues that the received view should be revised but not abandoned. In doing so, he clarifies and answers the most central questions in this burgeoning field of philosophical research: what kinds of cognitive abilities are involved in understanding? What is the relationship between the understanding that explanations provide and the understanding that experts have of broader subject matters? Can there be understanding without explanation? How can one understand something on the basis of falsehoods? Is understanding a species of knowledge? What is the value of understanding?

http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2018/12/what-do-you-understand/?fbclid=IwAR3rebZUdW1oG7GGYBdvGU9Cr3I8_LruoJfBtBHuaVG9ZhGoyTJ7WHm5p64
book  via:cshalizi  philosophy_of_science  explanation 
december 2018 by rvenkat
Models mathematics and methodology in economic explanation | History of economic thought and methodology | Cambridge University Press
"This book provides a practitioner's foundation for the process of explanatory model building, breaking down that process into five stages. Donald W. Katzner presents a concrete example with unquantified variable values to show how the five-stage procedure works. He describes what is involved in explanatory model building for those interested in this practice, while simultaneously providing a guide for those actually engaged in it. The combination of Katzner's focus on modeling and on mathematics, along with his focus on the explanatory performance of modeling, promises to become an important contribution to the field."
to:NB  books:noted  social_science_methodology  modeling  economics  philosophy_of_science 
december 2018 by cshalizi
Understanding explanation and scientific knowledge | Philosophy of science | Cambridge University Press
"From antiquity to the end of the twentieth century, philosophical discussions of understanding remained undeveloped, guided by a 'received view' that takes understanding to be nothing more than knowledge of an explanation. More recently, however, this received view has been criticized, and bold new philosophical proposals about understanding have emerged in its place. In this book, Kareem Khalifa argues that the received view should be revised but not abandoned. In doing so, he clarifies and answers the most central questions in this burgeoning field of philosophical research: what kinds of cognitive abilities are involved in understanding? What is the relationship between the understanding that explanations provide and the understanding that experts have of broader subject matters? Can there be understanding without explanation? How can one understand something on the basis of falsehoods? Is understanding a species of knowledge? What is the value of understanding?"
to:NB  books:noted  philosophy_of_science  explanation 
december 2018 by cshalizi

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