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Science and society. How do scientific theories (or philosophical theories about science) impact commonsense views, public policy, etc.? And vice versa? CWU summer program: visit signing chimps: FriendsofWashoe.com The case of Genie Animal rights and our closest cousins (film)

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science and society
Science and society
  • How do scientific theories (or philosophical theories about science) impact commonsense views, public policy, etc.?
  • And vice versa?
  • CWU summer program: visit signing chimps: FriendsofWashoe.com
  • The case of Genie
  • Animal rights and our closest cousins (film)
  • Science at the Bar: determining what is science and what is not (demarcation again!), and using philosophy of science to do so...
science and society2
Science and society
  • Ordinary chimps and Bonobos apparently:
    • Have self-awareness, learn from a rich social (cultural?) environment, have complex social emotions and arrangements, can learn from each other, can use tools, have a developed (often troop specific) gesture-based means of communication, can learn 100’s of words of human natural language vocabulary and follow commands, and can communicate, using sign language and lexigrams, their needs and intentions to humans.
  • Should they be granted rights and/or recognized as “having rights” similar to those granted to or attributed to humans?
slide3
Clearly, the view they that are “mindless”, driven solely by instinct, and in other ways “dumb brutes” is no longer tenable.
  • What to make of this?
  • Peter Singer, Australian philosopher at the University of Melbourne, and often controversial:
    • Yes, they should be granted rights that we grant to other humans
    • For Singer, rights aren’t “god-given” or inherent and “real” independent of society; so-called “human rights” are created and granted by societies.
slide4
Peter Singer:
  • A utilitarian, Singer accepts (socially-defined) rights as a principle that follows from minimizing suffering
  • Animal Liberation, published in 1977, he argued against “speciesism”: discrimination based on the grounds that one belongs to a specific species
  • He also argued that critics of Mary Wollstonecraft’s 18th century defense of women’s rights were correct in equating granting rights to women with granting rights to “brutes”
  • But then turned the argument on its head by arguing that “all beings capable of suffering are worthy of equal consideration” and that giving lesser consideration to beings based on their having wings, fur, or female genitalia is no more justified than giving consideration to skin color.
slide5
Peter Singer:
  • Animals should be granted rights based on their ability to feel pain (emotional, psychological, as well as physical) more than on the basis of their intellectual capacities.
  • After all, many severely retarded humans are no more intelligent than some animals, yet we grant them rights.
  • Moreover, it is clear that nonhuman primates can be highly intelligent and at least as intelligent as human children. As we grant the latter rights, why not intelligent animals?
  • And should intelligence be the sole criterion?
science at the bar
Science at the bar
  • Larry Laudan v. Michael Ruse
  • Laudan:
    • McLean vs. Arkansas was a “hollow victory”
    • Aka “Ruse’s ‘ruse’”
  • How the philosophy of science had a role in the case
science at the bar7
Science at the bar
  • Judge Overton (and Ruse et al)
  • Creation Science is not science because it does not contain “the essential features of science”
    • It does not appeal to natural law
    • Its claims are not testable or falsifiable
    • Its proponents and claims are dogmatic rather than tentavie
  • Laudan’s alternative: CS is testable and many of its claims are patently false.
science at the bar8
Science at the bar
  • Laudan: A far more serious problem is that the way science was portrayed in the case is a false stereotype
    • Many scientific claims also cannot be tested in isolation and the logic of falsification is severely limited by that (Hempel and Duhem)
    • Many scientific claims are not viewed by scientists of the day as open to negotiation; there is a degree of dogmatism about core commitments among scientists (Kuhn and Duhem)
    • We don’t insist that in order for something to have happened or to exist we must know what laws explain it (for example, we know evolution occurred and continues to but there are no laws in evolutionary theory) (van Fraassen’s account of explanation)
science at the bar9
Science at the bar
  • Laudan: A far more serious problem is that the way science was portrayed in the case is a false stereotype
    • Add to all these problems, the fact that (scientific, all) observations are theory laden.
    • This compromises, to some extent (a matter of controversy to what extent), the impact of sensory experiences and/or experimental results that are supposed to confirm or falsify a given hypothesis
science at the bar10
Science at the bar
  • In what respects was the portrait of science “a false stereotype”?
    • Not all sciences have laws in the sense presumed here
    • It is not clear that there really is any definition, or single criterion, or set of criteria, that succeed in defining science and demarcating it from other endeavors
    • In short, the “pro-science” defenders are defending a philosophy of science which is every bit as outmoded as the “science” of creationism
pro judice ruse
Pro Judice : Ruse
  • To say that science appeals to law is not asserting that we know all the laws.
    • Does this answer the critique that not all sciences include laws?
  • The bottom line of all the various criteria offered:
    • Science does not break with law… it does not appeal to miracles.
      • If in terms of a singularity, what about “The Big Bang”? Not miraculous, but for some theories, singular
  • Laudan’s response is insufficient because the Constitution does not prohibit the teaching of weak or bad science. It prohibits the teaching of religion – which CS/ID is.
wrap up
Wrap up…
  • Have your views about science changed in any way because of readings, films, or discussions?
    • If so, how? If not, why not?
  • If you were designing the course, is there any part of it (topics, readings, films) that you would
    • Spend less time on?
    • Spend more time on?
  • What was
    • Your most favorite topic?
    • Your least favorite topic?
    • And why?
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