The science of science.
Nov 6, 2008 at 2:47 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 33

Happy Camper

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It's quite science really...........
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Science is a complex, nonlinear system that is made up of two moments: scientific actors and scientific structures. Scientific self-organization operates synchronously and diachronically. Synchronous scientific self-organization is a mutual production process between scientific actors and structures. Scientific systems are self-organizing units that perform the production of theories and truths by the way of a productive, circular causal duality of scientific actors and scientific structures. Science is a dynamic system where research practices produce and reproduce structures that produce and reproduce research practices. Scientific structures are medium and outcome of scientific actions. At the action level one can find a systemic hierarchy that is made up of individual researchers, research groups, scientific communities, and the overall scientific community. Scientific structures include theories, research institutions, technologies, journals, publications, science funds; norms, values, and rules of scientific conduct. The main scientific practices can be categorized as genuinely scientific practices (innovation, dissemination, scientific interchange, funding-related activities, teaching), cultural practices (public discourse), political practices (science policy), and economic practices (action related to scientific knowledge as commodities, patents, science-industry-partnerships, sponsorship).

Science is an open system that is structurally coupled to other subsystems of society, it is neither internally, nor externally determined, its development is caused by a complex interplay of internal and external factors, it is a relatively autonomous system. Systems in nature and society act as a sort of data for the scientific system, research processes establish an informational relationship between the scientific system and its environment in the sense that theories are complex, non-linear reflections of environmental processes. Due to the fact that all complex systems are informational, one can say that science produces information about information systems. Science is a 2nd order information system, it produces meta-information. Philosophy of science is a science of science, it produces information about information about information, it is a 3rd order information system. The metaphor of science as a grand hypertext refers to the self-referential character of scientific texts. A scientific text by the way of citation refers to other scientific texts, it incorporates part of the history of science, and methodologically discusses other texts.

The formation of scientific knowledge can be described as a double-process of induction and deduction, abstraction and concretization, where scientific knowledge consists of both empirical knowledge and theoretical knowledge and is formed in loop that consists of two self-organization processes. The self-organization of scientific knowledge is a mutually productive relationship between experience and theory. Scientific knowledge is a unity of experience and theory. The self-organization of scientific knowledge is a dialectical cycle where signals from material reality are transformed into experienced data that is interpreted and results in hypotheses and theories which are transformed into methods and technologies that are employed in order to cause effects in material reality that can again be observed as data. In this self-organization process there is the bottom-up-emergence of theoretical knowledge and the top-down-emergence of experiences and material effects.

Each scientific theory is a truth claim, but one that is based on a systematic methodology, permanent evaluation and correction, and conflict-based discourse. Hence scientific truths are not absolute truths, they are truths-in-question, truths-in-discourse, and truths-in-conflict, and truths-in-development. One can distinguish formal, adequate, discursive, and practical truth of a theory. Due to the fact that the knowledge-based society is a high risk society, practical truth of science in the form of an ethically responsible science is of central importance.

Diachronic self-organization of science means that dominant scientific paradigms at some point of time loose their effectiveness, paradoxes and instabilities show up, science enters crisis, a new dominant paradigm emerges. If a large gap between scientific theory and the problems posed for science by itself and by society emerges, the dominant structural patterns are increasingly questioned. This can have scientific or wider societal causes, or a combination of both. The resulting crisis is a process of creation and destruction. The whole process is one of the emergence of scientific order from noise. Variation is a permanent phenomenon of scientific evolution, but in phases of instability where the self-organization of science shifts from self-reproduction to order from noise the degree of variation and development by chance is much larger.

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Nov 6, 2008 at 2:59 AM Post #2 of 33

tongson

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Might want to cite the original text <http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00001621/>. Of course it's possible that your the author although unlikely because you didn't mention the original title: Science as a Self-Organizing Meta-Information System.

So what are you getting at? Science of science?
 
Nov 12, 2008 at 11:41 PM Post #4 of 33

Mark Ovchain

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Science is that which results from the practice of the scientific method, and is based ultimately on one simple question and the answers to that question.

The question is: Can it be tested?

If no, its never going to be science.

If yes, then the question is "Does it work":
If no, it's not science yet.

If it works, it's science.

That's really all science is.

Science shows us many things, some of them I see I'm not allowed to mention here, related to how one tests perception.
 
Nov 13, 2008 at 1:07 AM Post #5 of 33

jonathanjong

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^ Huh? I don't think any of that is non-controversial.

Defining "science" as the product of the scientific method is problematic for two reasons: First, there seems to be no reason to privilege result over method here. Why not say "science" is a method or a collection of methods? Second, what's "the scientific method"? I'm among the philosophers of science who are sceptical that there is such a thing as a well-defined method or a well-defined set of methods. Not all philosophers are sceptical, but all do worry about the problem of defining scientific method.

What do you mean by "work"? Is this a plug for scientific pragmatism? Does this exclude scientific realism? Or are you proposing that only results that falsify the null hypothesis are properly "scientific"?

Discussing science, like discussing religion and politics, is a difficult thing. Most people realize that talking about religion and politics is difficult, but for some reason, we think that science is simple and straightforward. We readily categorize certain beliefs as non-scientific and others are obviously scientific. But when we get down to it, it's not obvious why "intelligent design" should be "non-science" while "super string theory" should be "science". I'm not taking sides here on these issues, but I would like to point out that science - whatever it is - is not easily defined or understood.
 
Nov 13, 2008 at 8:41 PM Post #8 of 33

Mark Ovchain

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Quote:

Originally Posted by jonathanjong /img/forum/go_quote.gif
^What do you mean by "work"? Is this a plug for scientific pragmatism? Does this exclude scientific realism? Or are you proposing that only results that falsify the null hypothesis are properly "scientific"?



Absurd. If something works, it's real. You've introduced a false dichotomy and you're trying to create an opposition that does not exist.
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Discussing science, like discussing religion and politics, is a difficult thing.


If you want to muddy the waters, yes.
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But when we get down to it, it's not obvious why "intelligent design" should be "non-science" while "super string theory" should be "science".


Straw man. "string theory" isn't testable and isn't, yet, at least, moved from the domain of mathematical theory to accepted science.

As to ID, yes, it's clear, it's not a testable premise, therefore it will never be science.
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I'm not taking sides here on these issues, but I would like to point out that science - whatever it is - is not easily defined or understood.


Only true if you want to "teach the controversy", methinks.
 
Nov 13, 2008 at 9:58 PM Post #9 of 33

jonathanjong

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sigh... <puts philosophy of science hat on>

There are scientific realists and scientific anti-realists (or instrumentalists). Scientific realists, including myself, think that science aims to discover (or reveal) truths about the world. Scientific instrumentalists think that science aims to generate useful predictions, say, for technological advancement. Now, these are two very respectable positions. The fact that you think there's a "false dichotomy" reveals your ignorance of the philosophy of science literature, to be honest. An example from physics illustrates the difference clearly: Do quarks exist? Now, an scientific realist would say, "Yes, I believe that quarks really exist." A scientific anti-realist might say, "No, I don't believe that quarks actually exist. But they are useful mathematical fictions that help us to generate predictions, that in turn help us to design useful technologies." There are good arguments on both sides of the divide as any cursory read of any philosophy of science textbook (e.g., Chalmers, Godfrey-Smith, Musgrave) will reveal.

I'm not sure many theoretical physicists would say that what they're doing isn't science, but sure, I'll concede that for sake of argument. As for Intelligent Design...I don't think it's any less testable or falsifiable than the standard Darwinian model. And don't get me wrong, I'm a Darwinian through and through. The deeper problem is the question of principles of demarcation between "science" and "non-science." Most laypeople naively think that "falsifiability" is the key. With all due respect to Karl Popper, this view is problematic for a whole host of reasons, starting with the Duhem-Quine thesis. Indeed, Popper knew of this problem and his own views on the matter are more nuanced than many people think.

My advice...is to read up on your philosophy of science before taking up a debate on a headphone forum. Not that I don't enjoy it, but really, a forum isn't the most conducive place to discuss philosophy of science at length.
 
Nov 13, 2008 at 10:26 PM Post #10 of 33

Mark Ovchain

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Quote:

Originally Posted by jonathanjong /img/forum/go_quote.gif
sigh... <puts philosophy of science hat on>

There are scientific realists and scientific anti-realists (or instrumentalists). Scientific realists, including myself, think that science aims to discover (or reveal) truths about the world. Scientific instrumentalists think that science aims to generate useful predictions, say, for technological advancement. Now, these are two very respectable positions.



And your separating them into two camps is a false dichotomy. End of discussion.
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The fact that you think there's a "false dichotomy" reveals your ignorance of the philosophy of science literature, to be honest.


I don't agree with the dichotomy you express, nor the straw men you offer below, and your assertion that these are two discrete camps is a false dichotomy, based on begging an argument as we will see below.

Your argument is classic for the armchair philosopher, and amounts to "you disagree with me, therefore you are ignorant".
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An example from physics illustrates the difference clearly: Do quarks exist? Now, an scientific realist would say, "Yes, I believe that quarks really exist." A scientific anti-realist might say, "No, I don't believe that quarks actually exist. But they are useful mathematical fictions that help us to generate predictions, that in turn help us to design useful technologies."


And, since science, is above all, EMPIRICAL, the difference between those two positions is not a scientific issue, because either way, we come to the same result. Not ONLY are your two positions straw men (I won't go into 'what does "exist" mean' here), they both, EMPIRICALLY, create the same result. So, not only are your positions straw men, and the projections you place on scientists unnecessarily dichotomous, you are dodging the question of "what does exist mean", and attempting to argue something irrelevant to science.

And, furthermore, involving observability, in an implicit, but completely misleading fashion, is just completely lame. My goodness. Do you wish to slide down the slippery slope of arguing that human senses must be invoved in the direct observation? If not, then you simply have to completely abandon the propaganda about quarks... This argument is wrong on so many levels it's almost worthy of a textbook, except that I see no point in writing it.

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There are good arguments on both sides of the divide as any cursory read of any philosophy of science textbook (e.g., Chalmers, Godfrey-Smith, Musgrave) will reveal.


First, they aren't "both sides", they are saying the same thing, EMPIRICALLY, so they are the same side. Second, most "philosophy of science" texts, well, better left unsaid, I think.
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I'm not sure many theoretical physicists would say that what they're doing isn't science, but sure, I'll concede that for sake of argument.


They are theories proposed to advance science. One may (or may not, depending on the discipline and prior knowlege) have a theory that is not a scientifically accepted theory, but that may prove useful in developing science. Such are many things (I've a few published myself, but not in particle physics), and the time they become science is when they can be tested, and perhaps verified.

By the way, what is the most interesting experiment:

a) An experiment that confirms every tested facet of the commonly accepted scientific knowlege
b) One that contradicts the commonly accepted scientific knowlege.
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As for Intelligent Design...I don't think it's any less testable or falsifiable than the standard Darwinian model.


Yeah, here we go again, "teach the controversy". The "Standard Darwinian Model", first and foremost, does not exist. Second, evolution as a result of environmental pressure has been observed, again and again. Therefore, not only has it be tested (in the form of "has it happened") it has been observed.

ID, on the other hand, is purely, utterly untestable. So the two are utterly, completely dichotomous. One has been proven, repeatedly, to happen, and there is no possible way to even test the other.

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Most laypeople naively think that "falsifiability" is the key. With all due respect to Karl Popper, this view is problematic for a whole host of reasons, starting with the Duhem-Quine thesis. Indeed, Popper knew of this problem and his own views on the matter are more nuanced than many people think.


Falsifiability is one requirement. Calling it "the key" is perhaps too strong, but if something can not be falsified, it's not in the realm of science. That's the problem with string theory, it may in fact be possible to make it tautological. That does, I agree, lead to interesting issues.
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Quote:


My advice...is to read up on your philosophy of science before taking up a debate on a headphone forum. Not that I don't enjoy it, but really, a forum isn't the most conducive place to discuss philosophy of science at length.


And ny advice to you is:

1) Do not equate considered, qualified professional disagreement with a position as ignorance.
2) Don't throw bad examples with multiple logical and rhetorical disqualifications at your opponent, she may see right through them.
3) Don't oversimplify the opponent's view, that's insulting.
4) Don't discount Popper, and don't confuse some of the ridiculous deconstructionist meddling that has gone after with the philosophy of science. Hume, we're fine. Kuhn, err, no. Just no. (for some examples) While Kuhn did have some interesting ideas, glorifying new understand as "paradigm shifts", well, that's just where the derrangement started, of course all of this 'in my opinion'. Derrida? No, just no.
5) Others are allowed to disagree with what you read in a text book.
 
Nov 13, 2008 at 10:59 PM Post #11 of 33

jonathanjong

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Gosh, this is tiring. I've had to do this more than once on Head-Fi...

So, you're denying that scientific realism and scientific instrumentalism are two distinct positions? If so, you should publish a book! You'll have solved the biggest problem in philosophy of science.

If I understand you, you're saying that the the question of whether we should be ontologically committed to quarks (and other such entities) is a non-scientific question. Does this entail that you think that science cannot answer any ontological questions? If so, then you're a scientific instrumentalist, and it's now clear to me why you emphasize the pragmatic aspect of science (in your dictum that "if it works, it's real").

I don't actually think we should teach ID in school, but it's not because it's not science. It's more because it's bad science. There's an interesting recent paper by Gregory Dawes on what exactly's wrong with ID that you might like to read.

An aside about Creationism: If you're right that theories that generate the same empirical predictions are scientifically identical (even if they differ in their ontological commitments), then some Gossian versions of Creationism are scientifically identical to the modern synthesis.

Erm, the problem with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is that it's not obvious that it can be falsified in the strong sense. We can always get around any seemingly contradictory evidence, and we do! It's the Duhem-Quine thesis again, really.

I'm a Popperian as it happens. Well...maybe a Lakatosian. Somewhere in between, any way. I'd definitely have pegged you as an instrumentalist were it not for that No. 4. Odd...

I'd love to continue this discussion, but perhaps this isn't the best place? Do you do philosophy of science too? Or are you just a learned layperson? Love those.
 
Nov 13, 2008 at 11:13 PM Post #12 of 33

Kees

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Mark Ovchain /img/forum/go_quote.gif
And your separating them into two camps is a false dichotomy. End of discussion.


I don't agree with the dichotomy you express, nor the straw men you offer below, and your assertion that these are two discrete camps is a false dichotomy, based on begging an argument as we will see below.

Your argument is classic for the armchair philosopher, and amounts to "you disagree with me, therefore you are ignorant".

And, since science, is above all, EMPIRICAL, the difference between those two positions is not a scientific issue, because either way, we come to the same result. Not ONLY are your two positions straw men (I won't go into 'what does "exist" mean' here), they both, EMPIRICALLY, create the same result. So, not only are your positions straw men, and the projections you place on scientists unnecessarily dichotomous, you are dodging the question of "what does exist mean", and attempting to argue something irrelevant to science.

And, furthermore, involving observability, in an implicit, but completely misleading fashion, is just completely lame. My goodness. Do you wish to slide down the slippery slope of arguing that human senses must be invoved in the direct observation? If not, then you simply have to completely abandon the propaganda about quarks... This argument is wrong on so many levels it's almost worthy of a textbook, except that I see no point in writing it.


First, they aren't "both sides", they are saying the same thing, EMPIRICALLY, so they are the same side. Second, most "philosophy of science" texts, well, better left unsaid, I think.

They are theories proposed to advance science. One may (or may not, depending on the discipline and prior knowlege) have a theory that is not a scientifically accepted theory, but that may prove useful in developing science. Such are many things (I've a few published myself, but not in particle physics), and the time they become science is when they can be tested, and perhaps verified.

By the way, what is the most interesting experiment:

a) An experiment that confirms every tested facet of the commonly accepted scientific knowlege
b) One that contradicts the commonly accepted scientific knowlege.

Yeah, here we go again, "teach the controversy". The "Standard Darwinian Model", first and foremost, does not exist. Second, evolution as a result of environmental pressure has been observed, again and again. Therefore, not only has it be tested (in the form of "has it happened") it has been observed.

ID, on the other hand, is purely, utterly untestable. So the two are utterly, completely dichotomous. One has been proven, repeatedly, to happen, and there is no possible way to even test the other.


Falsifiability is one requirement. Calling it "the key" is perhaps too strong, but if something can not be falsified, it's not in the realm of science. That's the problem with string theory, it may in fact be possible to make it tautological. That does, I agree, lead to interesting issues.
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And ny advice to you is:

1) Do not equate considered, qualified professional disagreement with a position as ignorance.
2) Don't throw bad examples with multiple logical and rhetorical disqualifications at your opponent, she may see right through them.
3) Don't oversimplify the opponent's view, that's insulting.
4) Don't discount Popper, and don't confuse some of the ridiculous deconstructionist meddling that has gone after with the philosophy of science. Hume, we're fine. Kuhn, err, no. Just no. (for some examples) While Kuhn did have some interesting ideas, glorifying new understand as "paradigm shifts", well, that's just where the derrangement started, of course all of this 'in my opinion'. Derrida? No, just no.
5) Others are allowed to disagree with what you read in a text book.



Hear hear!
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Nov 14, 2008 at 12:44 AM Post #13 of 33

Mark Ovchain

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Quote:

Originally Posted by jonathanjong /img/forum/go_quote.gif
So, you're denying that scientific realism and scientific instrumentalism are two distinct positions? If so, you should publish a book! You'll have solved the biggest problem in philosophy of science.



Well, you know all the rhetorical tricks, don't you? Of course you can distinguish two such positions, but that's now you're picking up the goalposts and running at full speed in the other direction, because you originally presented them as OPPOSED and DICHOTOMOUS.

And they are in fact neither opposed nor must they, as a matter of nature, be dichotomous.

One can create a dichotomy, indeed you have previously done so. It is, however, a false, constructed dichotomy. It is not implicit.

It is not a required dichotomy. It is not implicit. That it was was the sixtifour of your original claim.
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If I understand you, you're saying that the the question of whether we should be ontologically committed to quarks (and other such entities) is a non-scientific question.


No, that's not what I'm saying. You're still begging the basic question, a question that can be devolved down to the ultimate solipcism, of "what is real" or "what is existance". Quarks are quarks, whatever they are. Science is an empirical discipline.

We can never directly observe the curvature of space, either, although we can measure its effects. Same as quarks. We can see the effects, whatever they are. What we call them is ultimately a model in our minds in any case.
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Does this entail that you think that science cannot answer any ontological questions? If so, then you're a scientific instrumentalist, and it's now clear to me why you emphasize the pragmatic aspect of science (in your dictum that "if it works, it's real").


When you stop trying to pigeonhole me, maybe you'll start to understand what I'm saying. Testing for the curvature of space works, one can measure "it". It's curved. Ergo space is curved. It's a real effect. It's real.
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I don't actually think we should teach ID in school, but it's not because it's not science. It's more because it's bad science. There's an interesting recent paper by Gregory Dawes on what exactly's wrong with ID that you might like to read.


It's not bad science, it's not even that good. It's not science, period. It is pure, unbridled mysticism masquerading as science. Saying it's "bad science" is giving it way, way too much credit. As I argue with creationists on what seems, sometimes, to be a daily basis, I suspect I'm well aware of a whole host of positions, most of them cockeyed or crocked, on the subject.

It's not testable. It's not science. Next please. One of my desires is for students to actually learn what is science and what isn't. Bad science implies that something was done wrong, but that it can be tested, or that one mistakenly thought so, or something of that sort, but if it is untestable from the start, it's not something science can even read upon.
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An aside about Creationism: If you're right that theories that generate the same empirical predictions are scientifically identical (even if they differ in their ontological commitments), then some Gossian versions of Creationism are scientifically identical to the modern synthesis.


No. The only kind of "creationism" that is commensurate with modern knowlege is the tautological kind where 'before the universe was observable, some sentient supernatural force pushed it all into motion and said force is no longer observable from inside this universe'. And that's not testable. Ergo, it's not science. Alternatively, we can argue for what I call, somewhat inaccurately, the deific-solopcistic creation, i.e. "we were created just after I wrote this article, memories and history along with it". Again, untestable.

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Erm, the problem with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is that it's not obvious that it can be falsified in the strong sense. We can always get around any seemingly contradictory evidence, and we do! It's the Duhem-Quine thesis again, really.


"Contradictory evidence" can mean nothing more than that the model needs refinement.

Relativity refines newtonian physics.
QM refines 'particles as hard spheres'
And so on.

Refinement is a keystone of the scientific method, and yet the inescapable meaning of your "contradictory evidence" is that it is not.

On the other hand, contradictory evidence that is in fact absolutely contradictory to the basic premise is another story. If we didn't seen organisms changing, that would be REAL contradictory evidence, but we see that all the time. That's the only "contradictory evidence" that would refute the basis of evolution.
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I'm a Popperian as it happens. Well...maybe a Lakatosian. Somewhere in between, any way. I'd definitely have pegged you as an instrumentalist were it not for that No. 4. Odd...

I'd love to continue this discussion, but perhaps this isn't the best place? Do you do philosophy of science too? Or are you just a learned layperson? Love those.


I can't escape it in my daily job, let's say. While I'm not primarily a philosopher of science, I get lots of practice. Hmm, my position is my own position, but I suspect Popper, given modern knowlege, might find my position pretty sensible, but then again, who knows. Philosophers like to argue. I like to build things.
 
Nov 14, 2008 at 4:19 AM Post #15 of 33

jonathanjong

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LOL. Hi, Kees.
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OK, you keep insisting that scientific realism and scientific instrumentalism aren't contradictory, and that perplexes me. As I said: If that's true, it's revolutionary. Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn, and Feyereband should all be resurrected and informed! Musgrave and van Fraassen should embrace in agreement! It seems clear to me, and to philosophers of science, that you cannot both be a scientific realist while simultaneously being a scientific anti-realist. Scientific realists believe that science is concerned with truth; scientific anti-realists believe that science is not concerned with truth. Scientific realists believe that we have good reasons to believe that some unobservable postulated entities really do exist; scientific anti-realists believe that we have no such good reasons to believe that such entities really do exist. What am I getting wrong here? What has philosophy of science gotten wrong here?

This is the first issue we seem to disagree on, i.e., whether or not realism and anti-realism are contradictory.
The second issue has to do with defining science, and I'll deal with that in the next post.
 

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