Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Massimo Pigliucci and Scientific Objectivity

I was able to attend a talk this past weekend by Massimo Pigliucci, which was put on by the NYC Skeptics.  It was quite good, and I have since caught up on Dr. Pigliucci's blog.  He's a fascinating guy with a ton of great insight into scientific truth and objectivity (by the way, you can view the slides for his talk here).

I took exception to one thing that he said in his talk, but it was a minor, minor point.  He suggested that most scientists would take the side of the correspondence theory of truth, which is to say that scientific theories are true if they approximate reality.  He goes on to make the great point that reality is dependent on our position, since we all see things a little differently. 

I would suggest that that we scientists think a theory is true if it matches our observable, measurable reality.  This, I think, is positionally independent because it is open to modification.  All of science is pending further data.  Now that's objectivity!

This is only a slight variation on what he says, and I think he made the same point at the end of his talk when discussing how we can define truth.  My only complaint is that not all scientists are so arrogant to assume that we are in position to know what is real.  We just measure what we see, and call it a spade.

DS

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