Evaluating scientific realism: a new generation of historical case studies

Exploratory Award

Project Team:

Principal Investigator:

Dr Peter Vickers, Durham University

Project Partners:

Dr Robin Hendry, Reader in Philosophy, University of Durham

Professor David M. Knight, Emeritus Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Durham

Dr Matthew Eddy, Senior Lecturer in the History of Science and Culture, University of Durham

Professor Holger Maehle, Professor of Medicine and Medical Ethics, University of Durham

Dr Ian Kidd, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Durham

Dr Juha Saatsi, Lecturer, University of Leeds

Professor Steven French, Professor of Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds

Gregory Radick, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds

Award Information:

This Exploratory Award project looked to address a very specific popular ‘scientific realist position’, which claims that when a scientific theory brings about substantial scientific successes, then the elements of that theory which did the work to bring about those successes are very likely at least approximately true.

There is widespread agreement that the popular scientific realist claim can be tested by the history of science. That is, one can look to specific instances in the history of science to either confirm of disconfirm the claim. But the position has not been thoroughly tested by the historical record: philosophers have focused on the same few case studies for the past thirty years. This lacuna in the literature is addressed by this project: by introducing a range of new case studies to the literature it establishes a solid starting point from which the noted extensive testing will be almost automatic.

Further information:

A Case Study (PDF) of this AHRC Science in Culture Theme Exploratory Award is available to download here.

This exploratory award has now been succeeded by a major follow-up project ‘Contemporary Scientific Realism and the Challenge from the History of Science’, which commenced on 1st August 2014. Further details are available here [PDF] Project Overview Contemporary Scientific Realism

Project dates: February- September 2012