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Whig History of Science Analytical Essay

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Updated: Oct 18th, 2019

Whig history describes our past as a kind of progression towards independence and enlightenment. The major idea of this history is the raising of scientific progress, human freedom, and constitutional government. Kearney underlines that Whig interpretation of any history “implies a view of the past which divides men essentially into two simple categories, progressive or reactionaries, forward-looking or backward-looking.” (1971, 17)

According to such idea, Whig history of science divides all scientists into good and bad ones. Good scientists stick to the side of truth, and bad, ignorant, scientists prefer to disprove the truth.

Whig history of science presents all past cultures like blind groups, which try to arrive at the views people have already enlightened. Only great men or women can present great discoveries, which will be truthful and corresponding to the already existed theories. Whig history of science creates a kind of barrier to clear understanding of everything.

Theory-Loading of Observation

Observation plays a very important role in the development of science. Alan Chalmers (1982, 23) points out that observation should be respected due to two reasons: (1) “science starts with observation” and (2) “observation yields a secure basis from which knowledge can be derived.”

The theory-loading of observation is rather important for humans’ understanding of how science works and can be developed. Humans observe many things and make certain conclusions about them. This is why it is possible to say that nature give all facts, which are so important for science, to humans.

People have nothing to do but continue observing things and compare them with their own predictions. The theory-loading of observation and facts, gathered by people from nature, infect all the tests and influence considerably future results. In order to make true, clear conclusions about something, it is crucially important for an observer to stay unbiased and unprejudiced.

Popper’s Theory of Falsification

Karl Popper was a famous Australian and British philosopher. One of his main purposes was the explanation of why many people could not come to one and the same conclusion after the experiment had been already conducted. Proper underlines that things do go wrong during the experiments, this is why the results cannot be positive.

According to Popper, experiments cannot prove something but just fail to disprove. “Popper’s theory of falsification relies upon closely similar ideas about the role of ‘agreement’ among the scientists.” (Niiniluoto, 49)

Popper works between two conceptions, which are the centre of his theory. They are verification and falsifiability. With the help of Popper’s theory of falsification, it is easy to analyze and criticize already existed works and experiments and demonstrate their falsifiability. In such case, the hypothesis, created according to Popper’s theory of falsification, cannot be disproved, and this is what is necessary for science.

Merton’s Norms of Science

One of the sociologists, who influenced considerably the development of science, was Robert King Merton. He conducted numerous researches into the sociology of science and developed one of the most famous norms of science, also known as CUDOS.

The Merton’s norms of science “compose an interacting and mutually reinforcing system of behaviour designed to make the common intellectual property of science proof against the distorting possibilities.” (Trachtman & Perrucci, 13) The norm of communism underlines common ownership of all discoveries, ideas, and goods comprised by science.

The norm of universalism lies in the fact that truth-claims of science should be evaluated without taking into consideration race, gender, religion, class, etc. Disinterestedness norm is all about the absence of scientists’ preferences during conducting researches. The last norm of organized scepticism points out that all scientific ideas have to be checked and analyzed properly before they will be presented to the public.

Kuhn’s Paradigms

Thomas Kuhn was one of the most known American historians of science and philosophers. Kuhn said that science was not able to progress any more because of unbelievable increase of new knowledge. His notion of paradigms replaced numerous theories in the social sciences. “A paradigm is an all embracing theoretical framework that defines scientific work in a given moment or period within one particular field of science.” (Schuster, 128)

Kuhn had an unbelievable desire to avoid certain subjectivity in science; however, his paradigms were not properly evaluated, they could not be connected to the modern world, and, finally, Kuhn’s paradigms could not help to solve any problem existed in science.

This is why these paradigms are rather infamous in philosophy of science. Without any doubts, Kuhn developed the idea of paradigm better than any one before; he described the components of any paradigm and even underlined its importance in science.

Reference List

Chalmers, A. F 1982, ‘The Theory-Dependence of Observation’, What is This Thing Called? An Assessment of Nature and Status of Science and Its Methods, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, pp. 22-37.

Kearney, H 1971, ‘The Whig Interpretation of History’, Science and Change 1500-1700, Weindenfeld and Nicholson, London, pp. 17-22.

Niiniluoto, I 1984, Is Science Progressive? Springer.

Schuster, J. A 1995, ‘Kuhn and the Nature of Science and Scientific Revolution’, Introduction to the History and Social Studies of Science, Department of Science, University of Wollongong, pp. 123-148.

Trachtman, L. E, & Perrucci, R 2000, Science under Siege: Interest Groups and the Science Wars, Rowman & Littlefield.

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