3.1.1 Introduction to History and Philosophy Science

Our culture is saturated by scientific claims and the technological results of scientific investigations. We are used to hearing about scientific discoveries in popular news media. Careers increasingly require a level of scientific literacy, and you may even be pursuing a career as a practicing scientist. This is all to say that we talk about “science” all the time. But have we really taken the time to think about what science is, how scientific theories are accepted and rejected, and the degree of certainty we can have about scientific claims? (Barseghyan et al., 2018).

This first lecture by Dr. Hakob Barseghyan at the University of Toronto introduces key questions in the history and philosophy of science. According to popular science mythology, real science begins with the scientific revolution when science liberated itself from religion. According to this story, scientists like Galileo were persecuted because of their use of reason. But is the demarcation between science and pseudo-science clear? Is the method of science rational, universal, and unchangeable? We begin our investigation of these questions with some essential concepts in the philosophy of science.


Read: Chapter 1: Introduction // University of Toronto Open E-Text


Guiding Questions:

  1. How many of these science myths did you believe?
  2. Why does Professor Barseghyan suggest that when developing histories of science we focus on theories rather than individuals and institutions?
  3. How does the presenter define a theory?
  4. What is a scientific mosaic?
  5. When a new theory of physics emerges, can we keep related elements of the mosaic? Is a heliocentric model of astronomy compatible with Aristotelian physics?
  6. How does the 17th and 18th century scientific mosaic differ from our present mosaic when it comes to the study of religion and theology?
  7. What is the difference between doing science and doing philosophy of science?
  8. What does philosophy allow us to understand about scientific change that history does not?
  9. How can the history and philosophy of science help us navigate the world in an educated way?


Video Credit: Barseghyan, H. (2015). Lectures on History and Philosophy of Science. Lecture 1. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNKSwqgl4HQ&feature=emb_logo.

Online Text: Barseghyan, H.; Overgaard, N. & Rupik, G. (2018). Introduction to History and Philosophy of Science. Available at https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/introhps/.

Thumbnail: “The Gravitational Lens G2237 + 0305.” Photo Credit: NASAESA, and STScI, 1990. Public domain. Quasar photographed by the European Space Agency’s Faint Object Camera on board NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.