In his reply to Stanley Weinberg in Origins Research (Vol. 14, No. 1, p.12), Forrest Mims appears to have misunderstood the sense of one of Weinberg's remarks. Weinberg wrote that:
Should Scientific American publish an occasional article by an outside contributor who is clearly identified as a creationist, the magazine would not be compromised.
In response, Mims asked,
How doe Weinberg propose to implement this Orwellian proposal? Should an identifying symbol, disclaimer or warning be stamped on the books and articles I've written over the past 20 years?
As I read Weinberg, by "clearly identified" he means "well known," not "marked as such in the pages of the magazine." I don't see his statement as advocating any kind of labeling system, as Mims has interpreted him.
I enjoyed reading the series of articles on science education frameworks and concur with the recommendations given at the end of "Invitation to Conflict: A Retrospective Look at the California Science Framework" (p. I-7). I disagree, however, with a few remarks made in several of the articles about topics in the philosophy of science.
All of these articles rightly took issue with the view that science is the only source of truth, but then went on (wrongly, in my opinion) to attack its objectivity, rationalism, and success. "Invitation to Conflict" (p. I-1) complains about a passage in the California Science Framework which "makes science the standard of truth and equates philosophy and theology with personal feelings." Further statements in the article instead seem to argue that science, philosophy, and theology should all be on equal footing, or perhaps that science should be subordinate to philosophy and theology. Hartwig and Wagner, in their article on "Project 2061," cite philosopher John Kekes' argument that philosophy is necessary to justify science, and therefore philosophy has some sort of rational priority over science. But why should philosophy be in any less need of justification than science? Some philosophers maintain that philosophy is in fact continuous with theoretical science (e.g., Lehrer 1990, pp. 6-7, and various writings of W.V. Quine). Ronald Giere (1988) has put forth a proposal for a cognitive science of science as a replacement for philosophy of science.
What the articles fail to address is the fact that, by virtually any measure you choose, the success of scientific explanation and scientific technology far exceeds that of theology and philosophy. Science has a pretty good record of resolving disputes which neither of the other two share. This makes a strong prima facie case for giving science a dominant role in obtaining truths and avoiding falsehoods.
The articles, while avoiding comparisons between science, philosophy and theology, instead attack science by apparently endorsing various anti-realist, relativist or anti-rationalist views of science (e.g., those of Larry Laudan, Paul Feyerabend, Thomas Kuhn and Bas van Fraassen). "Invitation to Conflict" (p. I-2) states that "the notion that change in science is predominantly cumulative is very doubtful," citing Laudan (Kuhn or Hilary Putnam could also have been cited). But the view that science does not progress is by no means without its detractors. Arguments for convergence (or in rebuttal to arguments against it) have been advanced by philosophers such as McMullin (1981), Newton-Smith (1981, ch. 8), Giere (1988, ch. 4) and Kitcher (1991). McMullin's article is particularly noteworthy in that it takes issue with Kuhn's pessimistic history of science, as well as arguing for scientific realism and convergence.
Graduate student in philosophy
University of Arizona, Tucson
[Forrest Mims replied disagreeing with my interpretation of Weinberg's comment (I'm not sure if Weinberg ever clarified before his death) and arguing that philosophy has to be foundational to science, science's success is exaggerated, and agreeing that science does progress but stating that it is not cumulative. That seems to me a contradiction--if it progresses, it must be largely cumulative. There's no disputing that there are refutations and revolutions in science, but in general scientific knowledge grows, building upon rather than completely replacing past work.] [Added 20 March 2010: My "contradiction" statement could be in error if if scientific theories were continually completely replaced by better better instrumentally successful theories that cover more phenomena,, with few to no commensurable entities between those successive theories (i.e., there is little to no intertheoretic reduction), but if there's better approximation to the truth in terms of the entities of scientific theories, you get cumulativity as well as progress. Mims must be an anti-realist about scientific theories.]