Synthesis Forum 3

After Monday's class, each member of Team 3 will comment and reflect on any ideas raised, or neglected, in the question, keyword, response and discussion process during the preceding week.

Ezra Awumey

Overall the discussion was very fruitful. Albeit a few tangents, it proceeded in the way we had hoped. The discussion helped to solidify my existing knowledge on realism, but also challenged and clarified my erroneous interpretations of the text. Since we received so few responses by the deadline, it was difficult to establish a middle ground. Although, Dr. Collier helped explain realism and Lauden’s position, in addition to giving us some personal accounts of his time with Lauden here at Virginia Tech. This helped to prime everyone for the discussion.

Kian’s response to question one was very thorough and allowed me to ask a question regarding the value of abduction within the epistemology of science. He argues that it is insufficient for adequately supporting the Realist’s argument. This is interesting because it seems that abduction plays a very large role in the way we rationalize the world in our everyday lives, but also in science. Why then is an abductive argument insufficient for problems in the epistemology of science, namely, approximate truth?

Another interesting comment brought up by Amanda, was how the convergent realist position, seems to rely heavily on time, or the succession of theories. My response was that for the convergent realist, what is considered to be real are objects or sets of relations that persist across theories. However, Dr. Collier corrected me by saying that for the Realist, what is real is simply what is real, irrespective of theories or explanations.

One concept I had a hard time grappling with was how we aren't rationally warranted to pick one theory over its rival and that theories in the history of science aren't chosen rationally. This is argued by Kuhn among others. Although I have my doubts in this argument along with the Duhem-Quine thesis. I think that underdetermination is indicative of the opposite, that theories are chosen on a rational basis, but that is best saved for another discussion.

Marie Stettler Kleine

I was happy to see that the scientific realism seminar got a few of the classmates fired up. I think the distinction between scientific realist and constructivist does not get discussed enough in disciplinary boundary work of STS. There is a strong divide between popular media and culture’s view of quantitative results and scientific discovery and the ways we conceptualize what science is in STS. I think that this gap makes communication of what we are doing in relationship to other accounts of scientific progress challenging. If we fundamentally disagree with what science and technology give us with popular narratives, how do our accounts speak to a general audience? How, if not just to “make science better,” do we measure our worth? I think that these questions are considered answered and set-aside to give us more time to contextualize the kinds of accounts we want to tell, but reexamining these questions would fundamentally shift what is considered good accounts of science in STS.

This tension is exactly why I didn’t mind the tangent and the conflict in class. I think that it showcases just what STS is up against, and maybe leads to our questioning our assumptions as a field. If we are just speaking to each other, and cannot adequately explain our perspectives to practitioners, how do try to relate to these disciplines? If we’re just in awe of them and aren’t ready to explain to them the fundamental problems that we see within science, why don’t we all just find other hobbies?

I don’t mean to be too terribly flippant, but how we view science and how it is venerated in popular accounts are not consistent, how can we claim to have an adequate picture of how people are captivated by it. Have we stripped science of its veneer too completely to appreciate its successes?

Annie Patrick
My first reflection for this assignment is how it aided me understanding the concepts. This was my first go at facilitating and leading the class discussion. For example, writing an in-depth definition for a chosen keyword lead me to focus not only on the chosen keyword, but also to extend further to grasp other related concepts. The same goes into the process of question formation. Kian discussion and comments concerning abductive within his summary and in class open the door to a topic that wasn’t fully addressed in the book. Roger’s replies to three of the questions added significantly. Considering scientific realism as a supporting pillar of science and technology connects the reading to the topic and discipline at hand. Amanda’s response provides a thorough understanding and explanation of reference and success, that is appreciated in light of the depth and density of Laudan’s writing. Her earlier comment in regards to the role of time in his argument is one that deserves more discussion.
The class discussion stayed on the path of convergent realism, though that path could have been judged either narrow or wide. I found it interesting the different ways that realism was viewed and discussed in class. One would think that realism would be a simple term and theory to explain and understand. However, its true depth was first explored through Laudan’s work and then again in the class discussion. It built upon the different philosophies that have been discussed in prior classes of what constitute science and how to describe it. It is obvious from this class discussion, that this is not simple task and one that we will continue to discuss as we move forward in class

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