First, I identify a methodological thesis associated with scientific realism. This has different variants, but each concerns the reliability of scientific methods in connection with acquiring, or approaching, truth or approximate truth. Second, I show how this thesis bears on what scientists should do when considering new theories that significantly contradict older theories. Third, I explore how vulnerable scientific realism is to a reductio ad absurdum as a result. Finally, I consider which variants of the methodological thesis are the most defensible in light of the earlier findings.
This paper is based on talks given at Cambridge University’s Philosophy of Science Seminar and Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study. I am grateful to various audience members for comments, and particularly Robin Hendry, Milena Ivanova, Brian Pitts, and Jacob Stegenga. I am greatly indebted to Simon Goldstein and Jiji Zhang for insightful comments on drafts of the paper.
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- Historical evidence
- Scientific method
- Scientific realism
- Theory change