Is There Room for Pluralism in Science? Lecture by Dr. Hasok Chang

Event time: 
Monday, April 17, 2017 - 4:00pm
Whitney Humanities Center, Room 208 See map
53 Wall Street
New Haven 06510
Event description: 

Scientific progress can be helped by pluralism, similarly as social progress has been aided by political pluralism.  Contrary to the widespread notion that scientists should maintain a consensus on fundamentals because science is the search for the one truth about the one universe, Dr. Chang will argue that the ideal of science should be to learn about nature in all the various ways in which we can.  Since it is practically impossible to pursue too many avenues of inquiry at once, we need to cultivate a small number of well-chosen systems of practice within each field of study;  this advice is clearly contrary to sanctioning a demand to devote undue attention to highly implausible alternatives (e.g., creationism, climate-change denial).  There are two kinds of benefits to this pluralist approach.  The benefits of toleration arise from each system of practice developing in its own way and delivering its distinctive results.  The benefits of interaction arise from productive engagement between different systems.  Our guest will also point out that science has in fact progressed in a much more pluralist fashion than commonly imagined.  Particularly significant in that regard is what he calls “conservationist pluralism:”  when a successful system of practice has been established, it can and should be kept for what it continues to do well, even after another system that does other things better comes along.  A prime example is the fact that we still teach every student of physics Newtonian mechanics, a topic that remains very cogent in many areas (e.g., “rocket science”) in which more advanced theories such as quantum mechanics or general relativity cannot in fact be used.

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