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How to be rational about empirical success in ongoing science: The case of the quantum nose and its critics

Barwich, Ann-Sophie (2018) How to be rational about empirical success in ongoing science: The case of the quantum nose and its critics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

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Abstract

Empirical success is a central criterion for scientific decision-making. Yet its understanding in philosophical studies of science deserves renewed attention: Should philosophers think differently about the advancement of science when they deal with the uncertainty of outcome in ongoing research in comparison with historical episodes? This paper argues that normative appeals to empirical success in the evaluation of competing scientific explanations can result in unreliable conclusions, especially when we are looking at the changeability of direction in unsettled investigations. The challenges we encounter arise from the inherent dynamics of disciplinary and experimental objectives in research practice. In this paper we discuss how these dynamics inform the evaluation of empirical success by analyzing three of its requirements: data accommodation, instrumental reliability, and predictive power. We conclude that the assessment of empirical success in developing inquiry is set against the background of a model's interactive success and prospective value in an experimental context. Our argument is exemplified by the analysis of an apparent controversy surrounding the model of a quantum nose in research on olfaction. Notably, the public narrative of this controversy rests on a distorted perspective on measures of empirical success.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Barwich, Ann-Sophieab4221@columbia.edu0000-0003-0123-9366
Keywords: Scientific controversy; Science Communication; Model choice; Theory choice; Norms of dissent; Data accommodation; Robustness; Reproducibility; Prediction; Olfaction; Smell; Biochemistry
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
Specific Sciences > Chemistry
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Science Education
Depositing User: Dr. Ann-Sophie Barwich
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2018 18:40
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2018 18:40
Item ID: 14446
Journal or Publication Title: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Publisher: Elsevier
DOI or Unique Handle: doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsa.2018.02.005 0039-3681
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
Specific Sciences > Chemistry
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Science Education
Date: 2018
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14446

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