There will be a Pub-Style Science discussion of why scientists might want to think about epistemology in particular and (perhaps) philosophy more generally on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, starting 9 PM EDT/6 PM PDT. You can watch the hashtag #pubscience for more details (including the link that will let you watch the Google Hangout once it’s hanging out).
I’ve heard it said that an understanding of philosophy of science is about as useful to a scientist as a hydrodynamics textbook would be to a fish. Indeed, I’ve heard it said that philosophy of science is worse than useless to a scientist — that it a malign influence on one’s ability to do science.
I’m disinclined to believe these rejections of the value of philosophy for the scientific practitioner. Then again, I left a path as a scientific practitioner to become a philosopher. You do the math.
Anyways, in advance of the discussion Tuesday night, I thought I’d point you toward a couple ancient posts I wrote on philosophy of science and science, plus some other things worth reading before the conversation:
A branch of learning that ‘need not be learned’?: In which I examine a claim by scientist, Nobel Laureate, and notorious pre-internet troll Sir Peter Medawar that “scientific methodology” (which might be the picture delivered by philosophy of science) “need not be taught or, if taught, need not be learned”.
Does writing off philosophy of science cost the scientists anything?: In which I argue that philosophy of science may be useful to scientific practitioners who want to communicate productively with people outside their narrow scientific disciplines.
You might find the comment threads on both of those posts interesting (depending on your tolerance for interlocutors committed to talking past each other).
You should also read Michael Tomasson’s post setting the stage for Tuesday’s discussion.
On the question of whether postmodern strands of philosophy might have a particularly malign impact on one’s understanding of science, I recommend this Storify’d conversation.
No matter what we end up deciding, I expect it will be an interesting conversation.