All of Dunja's Comments + Replies

Open & Welcome Thread – March 2021

Hi all (and thanks Ben for starting this thread),

Our group (Philosophy & Ethics group, TU Eindhoven, The Netherlands) has a call for three PhD positions which might be of interest to some of you (the deadline is very soon though - March 10). All three positions are fully funded and for a period of 4 years. Please feel free to get in touch or send me a PM if you'd like some additional info on them!

PhD Position A: Norms of Explainable AI
PhD Position B: Cognitive Science of AI
PhD Position C: Philosophy of Science/Social epistemology

Book Review: The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions

Te problem of disagreements that arise due to different paradigms or 'schools of thought', which you mention, is an important problem as it concerns the possibility of so-called rational disagreements in science. This paper (published here) makes an attempt at providing a normative framework for such situations, suggesting that if scientists have at least some indications that the claims of their opponent is a result of a rational deliberation, they should epistemically tolerate their ideas, which means: they should treat them as potentially rati... (read more)

Open Thread January 2019

Hi all, I've posted a few comments, but never introduced myself: I'm an academic working in philosophy of science and social epistemology, mainly on methodological issues underlying scientific inquiry, scientific rationality, etc. I'm coming from the EA forum, but on Ben's invitation I dropped by here a few days ago and I am genuinely curious about the prospects of this forum, its overall functions and its possible interactions with the academic research. So I'm happy to read and chip in where I can contribute :)

Welcome! :) I really liked reading your comments on the recent post about Kuhn, and would be interested in hearing more of your thoughts on related topics, And if you ever have any questions or problems with the site, feel free to ping us here or on Intercom!
Book Review: The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions

Again: you are conflating the descriptive and the normative. You are all the time giving examples of how science went wrong. And that may have well been the case. What I am saying is that, there are tools to mitigate these problems. In order to challenge my points, you'd have to show that chriopractics did not appear even worthy of pursuit *in view of the criteria I mentioned above* and yet it should have been pursued (I am not familiar with this branch of science, btw, so I don't have enough knowledge to say anything concerning its current statu... (read more)

I agree that some notion of past fruitfulness and further promise is important. It's however hard to judge fruitfulness from the outside as a lot of the progress within a new paradigm might not be intelligible in the old paradigms. If you would have asked chiropractors in the 20th century whether they made theoretical progress, I would guess that you would get answer about how their theory progressed. If you however asked any mainstream medicine academic you would likely get the answer that they didn't produce anything useful. The standard peer review is a heavily standardized process that makes specific assumptions about the shape of knowledge. The ontology of special relations is something that matters for science but I can have that discussion Github []. Github does provide for a way of "peer-review" but it's very different then the way traditional scientific papers work. When I look at that discussion, it's also funny that both the person I'm speaking with and I have both studied bioinformatics. Bioinformatics as a field managed to share a lot of knowledge openly through ways besides scientific papers. It wouldn't be surprising to me when the DSM gets one day replaced by a well developed ontology created with a more bioinformatical paradigm. The database that comes out of the money from Zuckerberg will also be likely more scientifically valuable then any classical academic papers written about it.
Book Review: The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions

Like I've mentioned, that's why there are indices of theory promise (see .e.g. this paper), which don't guarantee anything, but still make the assessment of some hypotheses more plausible than, say, research done within pseudo-medicine. These indices shouldn't be confused with how the scientific community actually reacts on novel theories since it is no news that sometimes scientists fail to employ the adequate criteria, reacting dogmatically (for some examples, see this case study from the history of earth sciences or this one from the... (read more)

Chiropractics was long considered to be pseudo-medicine because it rests on the perceptive ability of it's practioners. Yet, according to Cochrane we now know that their interventions have effects that are comparable to our mainstream treatments for backpain. The useless paradigm of domestic science had a lot of esteem in the 20th centure while chiropratics had none. Given that it took this long to settle simply question of whether chiropratical intevention works for backpain, I think it's very hard to say for most alternative medicine approaches that have seen a lot less research what effects they have and could be demonstrated if you fund them as a serious paradigm. In medicine most of the journals endorse the CONSORT guidelines yet their peer-review processes don't make sure that the clear quality standards of the CONSORT guidelines are followed in a majority of published papers. Blinding peer-review doesn't help at all with encourages paradigm violating papers. Instead of succeding at forcing the quality standards they endorse on the papers they publish, mainstream journals do succeed at not publishing any papers that violate the mainsteam paradigm.
Book Review: The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions

Right, which is why it's important to distinguish between a mere hunch and a "warranted hunch", the latter being based on certain indicators of promise (e.g. the idea has a potential of explaining novel phenomena, or explaining them better than the currently dominant theory, the inquiry is based on feasible methodology, etc.). These indicators of promise are in no way a guarantee that the idea will work out, but they allow us to distinguish between a sensible novel idea and junk science.

What's feasible and what isn't is hard to say beforehand. If you take molecular biology the mainstream considered their goal at the beginning unfeaseable and it took a while till there was actually technology that made it feasible to know the shape of proteins and other biomoleculs. There's an interview with Sydney Brenner [] who was one of the fathers of molecular biology who says that the pradigmn likely wouldn't have gotten support in the current academic climate.
Book Review: The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions

But to think that you cannot do better than chance at generating successful new hypotheses is obviously wrong.

It would be an uncharitable reading of Kuhn to interpret him in that way. He does speak of the performance of scientific theories in terms of different epistemic values, and already in SSR he does speak of a scientist having an initial hunch suggesting a given idea is promising.

From merely observing science's success, we can conclude that there has to be some kind of skill (Yudkowksy's take on this is here and here, among other places) that go

... (read more)
There are certainly many scientists who have hunches that their attempts at revolutionizing science are promising. Most of them however fail.
Book Review: The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions
One thing that went too far into relativism was Kuhn's insistence that there is no way to tell in advance which paradigm is going to be successful. His description of this is that you pick "teams" initially for all kinds of not-truth-tracking reasons, and you only figure out many years later whether your new paradigm will be winning or not.

This is a good point, though it's important to distinguish between assessing whether a paradigm is going to be successful (which may be impossible to say at the beginning of research) and assessing wh... (read more)

How did academia ensure papers were correct in the early 20th Century?

This is an interesting historical question, but I'd like to challenge your initial motivation ;) So the idea that sciences used to be pursued more effectively a century ago. Intuitively speaking, I don't see why this would be the case, so I'd first have to see some evidence (including the measure of effectiveness) for this claim. My impression is rather that due to immense fragmentation of today's science into sub-disciplines, there are more people working on particular problems who are effective in their own domains, while remaining la... (read more)

Book Review: The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions

This is a nice summary of Kuhn's ideas from his SSR (with some really great examples). Your main question (where is in all this objectivity and how to get rid of relativism?) puzzled both Kuhn as well as the post-Kuhnian philosophers of science. In his later work (The Road Since Structure) Kuhn tried to answer these questions in more detail, leaning towards a Kantian interpretation of the world (roughly: even though we do not have an access to the world as such, the world does give a "resistance" to our attempts at forming knowledge about it... (read more)