George E. Smith
The Isaac Newton Lectures at the Suppes Center
Turning Data into Evidence: Three lectures on the role of Theory in Science
Building 200 Room 203
Building 200 Room 203
Building 200 - Room 203
ABSTRACT: The view that all observation is theory-mediated and hence that scientific evidence invariably rests on theoretical presuppositions now seems beyond dispute. Many see the consequent apparent lack of uncontestable grounding as raising deep questions about the nature and limits of the knowledge achieved in the sciences, questions that are sometimes taken to challenge all claims of science to epistemic authority. The three lectures will concede from the outset that theory of some sort is always needed to turn data into evidence and hence that theory always enters constitutively into evidence. But they will then argue that close analysis of historical practice in certain representative areas of physics shows that the ways in which theory has in fact entered into the process of marshalling evidence has not undercut but actually strengthened their claim to epistemic authority.
George E. Smith is widely recognized as a leading authority on Isaac Newton, and, in particular, on Newton's contributions to scientific methodology. Together with I. B. Cohen, he edited The Cambridge Companion to Newton, where he has a central piece on Newton's methodology. Aside from being Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University, Smith has pursued a highly successful career as a practicing mechanical engineer, and he Directed the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at MIT from 2001-2006. The three lectures will discuss a number of key developments in the physical sciences, including gravitational research from Newton to Einstein, J. J. Thomson's work on the electron at the end of the nineteenth century, and twentieth-century seismological research into the earth's interior, in order to depict the fine structure of evidential reasoning in these sciences and thereby illustrate and defend their epistemic authority. The lectures will be of wide interest to historians, philosophers, pure and applied physicists, engineers, and earth scientists, as well as to all those interested in the question of the distinctive place of the "hard" sciences in Western intellectual life.
Politecnico di Milano
Representing and Simulating: Toward an Epistemology of Computer Simulation
Tuesday, October 25th, 2005
1:30pm, Ventura Hall, room 17
In the very last years, biology and life sciences have been massively based on computer simulations in order to explain molecular and cellular behaviors. Accordingly, there has been a growing interest in the concept of simulation also from a philosophy of science perspective. In this talk I will aim to do the following things: 1) discuss some example of the use of multiagent systems for simulation of signal transduction pathways in cells, 2) give a definition of computer simulation in this area and compare it with other definitions, 3) offer an extension to the current epistemology of simulation, by relating it to important concepts, such as those of computational model and experiment.
a three lecture series by
Eleanor Roosevelt Professor of the Philosophy of
Science in the Program for the History, Philosophy
and Sociology of Science,
the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Logic and Probability in Modern Physics
The case of quantum mechanics