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Posted by Harvey on November 1, 2001 16:06:58 UTC

Thomas,

Science was born out of philosophy (by philosophers such as Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, David Hume, John Locke, etc). The divide from science and philosophy is not so clear cut.

For example, a number of interpretations of QM aren't treated as purely epistemological models. The uncertainty principle, for example, is often treated as the reason behind quantum tunneling, or the creation of virtual pairs, etc. These are examples of how science dwelves into the ontological arena by saying that the models (e.g., uncertainty principle) are more than just descriptive, but also bring about the existence of things. Another example are symmetry principles that are often used to explain why nature is the way it is (not just a human description but playing a normative role in the construction of nature).

Philosophical tenets of science is another arena where the divide between science and philosophy are blurred. For example, the attempt to unify the laws of physics is based on a unifying principle (metaphysical) where all the laws can be simplified. The attempt to interpret the meaning of certain concepts (e.g., cause in quantum mechanics) is other areas where philosophy and science intertwine.

There's a number of historical incidences where the philosophy of a scientist(s) led certain breakthroughs. For example, Einstein was heavily influenced by Mach's relativity principle which led to the breakthrough of special relativity. You can't say that this is a minor influence. Lorentz was very close to having the insight to special relativity, but many believe it was the (wrong) philosophy of science that prevented him from seeing the significance of relativity.

Let's not forget that empiricism, naturalism, materialism, physicalism, are all philosophies of science. Your statement "[s]o unless you know a way to learn about reality other than seeing, hearing, touching, anything you say that contradicts your sense impressions is necessarily mistaken" is also a philosophical stance.

Warm regards, Harv

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