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One of the most fundamental questions involved in the Philosophy of Science involves the problem of Scientific Realism. It asks us to think about the status of scientific claims. For instance, when your Chemistry teacher talks about atoms, are these real entities are they just a linguistic model that’s a convenient way to refer to a set of observations?
Scientific Realism at its heart makes two claims:
- Reality exists independently of our thoughts and observations
- Scientific claims about the world at least sometimes get it right — they actually describe reality
However over time, three categories of objections have been raised:
- Those that question the status of empiricism, particularly of unobservable objects
- Those that question whether or not terms like “jade” or “gold” or “mammal” actually describe reality or if they are convenient constructs that may actually contribute to making a world and finally,
- What we might call the instrumental evasion (common to engineers) which suggests that there could never be an answer to this question and that it simply doesn’t matter. If I can accurately build a bridge and it doesn’t fall down, does it matter if my understanding of reality is accurate?