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The Discovery of the Expanding Universe: Philosophical and Historical Dimensions

Duerr, Patrick M. and Holmes, Abigail (2023) The Discovery of the Expanding Universe: Philosophical and Historical Dimensions. [Preprint]

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Abstract

What constitutes a scientific discovery? What role do discoveries play in science, its dynamics and social practices? Must every discovery be attributed to an individual discoverer (or a small number of discoverers)? The paper explores these questions by first critically examining extant philosophical explications of scientific discovery—the models of scientific discovery, propounded by
Kuhn, McArthur, Hudson, and Schindler. As a simple, natural and powerful alternative, we proffer the “change-driver model”: in a nutshell, it takes discoveries to be cognitive scientific results that have epistemically advanced science. The model overcomes the shortcomings of its precursors, whilst preserving their insights. We demonstrate its intensional and extensional superiority, especially with respect to the link between scientific discoveries and the dynamics of science, as well as the award system of science. Both as an illustration, and as an application to a recent scientific and political controversy, we apply the considered models of discovery to one of the most momentous discoveries of science: the expansion of the universe. We oppose the 2018 proposal of the International Astronomers’ Union as too simplistic vis-`a-vis the historical complexity of the episode. The change-driver model yields a more nuanced and circumspect verdict: (i) The redshift-distance relation shouldn’t be named the “Hubble-Lemaître Law”, but “Slipher-Lundmark-Hubble-Humason Law”; (ii) Its interpretation in terms of an expanding universe, however, Lemaître ought to be given credit for; but (iii) The establishment of the expansion of the universe, as an evidentially sufficiently warranted result, is a communal achievement, emerging in the 1950s or 1960s.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Duerr, Patrick M.patrick-duerr@gmx.de
Holmes, Abigailaholmes3@nd.edu0000-0003-2841-3678
Keywords: Discovery, Kuhn, theory dynamics, progress, expansion of the universe
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Astrophysics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Cosmology
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Specific Sciences > Physics
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: Abigail Holmes
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2023 00:34
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2023 00:34
Item ID: 22837
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Astrophysics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Cosmology
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Specific Sciences > Physics
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 2023
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/22837

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