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What is future-proof science?

Vickers, Peter (2022) What is future-proof science? [Preprint]

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Abstract

Is science getting at the truth? The sceptics – those who spread doubt about science – often employ a simple argument: scientists were sure in the past, and then they ended up being wrong. Such sceptics draw on dramatic quotes from eminent scientists such as Lord Kelvin, who reportedly stated at the turn of the 20th century “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now,” shortly before physics was dramatically transformed. They ask: given the history of science, wouldn’t it be naïve to think that current scientific theories reveal ‘the truth’, and will never be discarded in favour of other theories? Through a combination of historical investigation and philosophical-sociological analysis, Identifying Future-Proof Science defends science against such potentially dangerous scepticism. It is argued that we can confidently identify many scientific claims that are future-proof: they will last forever, so long as science continues. How do we identify future-proof claims? This appears to be a new question for science scholars, and not an unimportant one. It is argued that the best way to identify future-proof science is to avoid any attempt to analyse the relevant first-order scientific evidence, instead focusing purely on second-order evidence. Specifically, a scientific claim is future-proof when the relevant scientific community is large, international, and diverse, and at least 95% of that community would describe the claim as a ‘scientific fact’. In the entire history of science, no claim meeting these criteria has ever been overturned, despite enormous opportunity.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Vickers, Peterpeter.vickers@durham.ac.uk0000-0001-5644-4290
Keywords: fact, realism, truth, scepticism, skepticism, consensus, pessimistic induction
Subjects: General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Social Epistemology of Science
Depositing User: Dr Peter Vickers
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2022 03:47
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2022 03:47
Item ID: 20523
Subjects: General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Social Epistemology of Science
Date: 26 April 2022
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20523

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