chapter  12
26 Pages

Conclusion: Experimental interventions and social constructions

Besides the continuing debate about how far Bayesianism is capable of representing the kind of reasoning scientists use in justifying their conclusions, there are other issues which are currently prominent for philosophers of science. There are questions about the experimental character of scientific method. How do, or should, scientific experiments contribute to the growth of scientific knowledge? Can experimental enquiry proceed independently of theoretical commitment? There are questions about the social character of scientific method. Are the conclusions which are established by using scientific methods determined less by reason than by the social, political and economic environment within which the methods are endorsed? In what way, if at all, are scientific facts constructed for scientists rather than discovered by them? There are questions about the nature and basis of claims about scientific method. Do these claims purport to be true generalised descriptions of how scientists proceed and of how they reason when establishing their conclusions, or are they rather attempts to prescribe standards to which good scientific reasoning should aspire? And there are questions about the need for, and existence of, any 'rules' about good reasoning in science. In the light of historical evidence about how science has proceeded, why not concede that any reasoning, how ever absurd in some circumstances, may be entirely appropriate and legitimate in other circumstances? Why not allow that scientists are 'epistemological opportunists' or 'methodological anarchists'? Why not allow that they should be? In this concluding chapter we will consider some connections between these issues, some questions they have raised, and some answers that have been proposed.