Science and Philosophy

OK, now I understand what you’re saying. When you use the word “truth”, you are referring to truths about nature-as-it-really-is, as opposed to truth in general (because it’s still absolutely true that all scientists believe that science deals with true and false statements). In that light your account of what these instrumentalists are saying make more sense. But I wish that you would use clearer terms.

I think even the strictest instrumentalists believe that the truths of science have something to do with nature - it’s likely the case that they just don’t think we have any idea to say for sure, as that is a philosophical question (which as I explained before, some consider philosophy to be generally messy and intractable).

As I said, the situation about AGW has a lot of political baggage that make it subject to all sorts of excesses and hostilities between different camps that rarely exist anywhere else in science. Is it wrong for pro-AGW scientists to attack Judith Curry? Probably yes, but their hostile reaction is understandable given the attacks that pro-AGW scientists have endured as well. These are not just rhetorical attacks in the press - I have heard of some pro-AGW scientists being unable to continue their work because of a barrage of demands from an array of politicians and skeptics to publish their data in unreasonable ways, or answer incessant, hostile questioning, all the while the threat of their funding (and livelihood) being taken away from them if they don’t comply. Or having to turn over thousands of emails and having to defend each word they wrote in informal correspondence - innocent questions or careless private remarks being turned into accusations of fraud or scientific misrepresentation.

The situation in the US regarding AGW is such that any evaluation of the state of the science by the government is politicized. I would imagine that the pro-AGW side are afraid that just one or two credible climate skeptics (as opposed to the hundreds of pro-AGW scientists) could be seized upon by politicians to support policies of inaction. Remember that the government doesn’t really have an objective method (or any systematic method at all, AFAIK) to evaluate the scientific consensus. And scientists are human, too.

1 Like

I try to be as clear as I can. But the scientists who say these things are often even less clear what they mean, so I am translating what they say as best I can.

Regarding AGW, we agree that this is an area of science that has become too politicized. And when something becomes politicized, nuance, balance, fairness to the other side, theoretical openness to alternatives – all these tend to go out the window in the clash of passions of the moment.

This post was very good.

Yes, I agree. I have no difficulty seeing that as true. And I am one of the people who sometimes questions the role of truth in science.

Yes, I agree that’s much more of a question.

I would put it this way: Does reality dictate to us that there are electrons? Or do we build models of reality, and the electrons come from our models?

I think it is the second of those.

It isn’t a matter of wanting to criticize science. Rather, it is because I study human cognition and human consciousness. And to study those, we need to investigate the source of our ideas and our concepts. And we also need to investigate how we ascertain truth.


I don’t know about physicists.

As I see it, the standard model is neither true nor false as a depiction of nature. Our concept of “true” does not allow us to make such a judgment of the standard model.

Here’s the problem:

There is nothing at all that can be said directly about nature. In order to say something, we need words and we need a standard way of attaching those words to nature. Until we have the words and the standards, there is no basis for saying anything.

The role of the standard model is to provide us with those words and standards which would allow us to say things about nature. So the standard model, or some suitable replacement, is a prerequisite to being able to have true or approximately true depictions of nature.

I look at the cosmology of Genesis 1 in about the same way. In its time, it provided a vocabulary and a set of standards on how to have true depictions of nature. So I tend to see that cosmology as neither true nor false, but as setting the stage to be able to make true depictions. But, of course, it has been superseded by newer and better cosmologies.