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Longino, Helen, and . The Social dimensions of scientific knowledge

2016, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Summary: Attention to the social dimensions of scientific knowledge is a relatively recent focus of philosophers of science. While some earlier philosophers made contributions to the topic that are still of relevance today, modern interest was stimulated by historians and sociologists of science such as Thomas Kuhn and the growing role played by the sciences in society and, by extension, in the lives of its citizens. There are two main vectors of interest: internal relations within scientific communities, and relations between science and society. This article covers literature in both categories. It starts with work that functions as historical backdrop to current work. As a subfield within philosophy of science, this area is too recent to have dedicated journals and has only a few anthologies. Nevertheless, there are resources in both categories. The remainder of the article lists work in specific subareas.

Comment: A good introduction to the study of social dimensions of scientific knowledge. Recommended for anyone interested in the social direction of science. The paper is easy to comprehend so could be read by both postgraduates and undergraduates.

Parke, Emily, and . Experiments, Simulations, and Epistemic Privilege

2014, Philosophy of Science 81(4): 516-536.

Abstract: Experiments are commonly thought to have epistemic privilege over simulations. Two ideas underpin this belief: first, experiments generate greater inferential power than simulations, and second, simulations cannot surprise us the way experiments can. In this article I argue that neither of these claims is true of experiments versus simulations in general. We should give up the common practice of resting in-principle judgments about the epistemic value of cases of scientific inquiry on whether we classify those cases as experiments or simulations, per se. To the extent that either methodology puts researchers in a privileged epistemic position, this is context sensitive.

Comment: Valuable in raising questions about preconceptions of "science experiments". This article would be useful as part of a look at scientific methodology and the real value obtained from our scientific practices.

Shrader-Frechette, Kristine, and . Tainted: How Philosophy of Science can expose bad science

2014, Oxford University Press USA.

Abstract: Lawyers often work pro bono to liberate death-row inmates from flawed legal verdicts that otherwise would kill them. This is the first book on practical philosophy of science, how to practically evaluate scientific findings with life-and-death consequences. Showing how to uncover scores of scientific flaws – typically used by special interests who try to justify their pollution – this book aims to liberate many potential victims of environmentally induced disease and death.It shows how citizens can help uncover flawed science and thus liberate people from science-related societal harms such as pesticides, waste dumps, and nuclear power. It shows how flawed biology, economics, hydrogeology, physics, statistics, and toxicology are misused in ways that make life-and-death differences for humans. It thus analyzes science at the heart of contemporary controversies – from cell phones, climate change, and contraceptives, to plastic food containers and radioactive waste facilities. It illustrates how to evaluate these scientific findings, instead of merely describing what they are. Practical evaluation of science is important because, at least in the United States, 75 percent of all science is funded by special interests, to achieve specific practical goals, such as developing pharmaceuticals or showing some pollutant causes no harm. Of the remaining 25 percent of US science funding, more than half addresses military goals. This means that less than one-eighth of US science funding is for basic science; roughly seven-eighths is done by special interests, for practical projects from which they hope to profit. The problem, however, is that often this flawed, special-interest science harms the public.

Comment: Recommended for students in philosophy of science, environmental ethics or science policy. Could serve as an introductory reading for practical philosophy of science. It is easy to read and suitable for undergraduate students.

Thalos, Mariam, and . Explanation is a genus: An essay on the varieties of scientific explanation

2002, Synthese 130(3): 317-354.

Abstract: I shall endeavor to show that every physical theory since Newton explainswithout drawing attention to causes-that, in other words, physical theories as physical theories aspire to explain under an ideal quite distinctfrom that of causal explanation. If I am right, then even if sometimes theexplanations achieved by a physical theory are not in violation ofthe standard of causal explanation, this is purely an accident. For physicaltheories, as I will show, do not, as such, aim at accommodating the goals oraspirations of causal explanation. This will serve as the founding insightfor a new theory of explanation, which will itself serve as the cornerstoneof a new theory of scientific method.

Comment: A striking argument that science does not employ causal explanations. Since this is a commonly-held assumption, this would be interesting to present in the context of scientific methodology, or in an exploration of causation as part of a challenge to whether the idea of causation is actually useful or necessary. Provides good historical context to support its claims. Best taught at an advanced or graduate level.