The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World

The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World

The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World

The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World

Excerpt

Science as Natural Philosophy,
Science as Instrumentality

I. Two Faces of Science

What do you do when you want to know about some aspect of the natural world? Most people, certainly most people in the industrial- ized world, would find out what the scientists have to say. If you want to know about the stars, you ask an astronomer or an astrophysicist; if you want to know about biological inheritance, you ask a geneti- cist; if you want to know about the history of the earth, you ask a geol- ogist or a geophysicist.

“Science,” taken as a general category, is a very prestigious label that we apply to those bodies of knowledge reckoned to be most solidly grounded in evidence, critical experimentation and observa- tion, and rigorous reasoning. Science is practiced, as a matter of cir- cular definition, by scientists. Despite the diversity of specialized sci- entific disciplines, you may be sure that, even if the first professional scientist of whom you ask your question is of the wrong specialty, that person will guide you to another scientist (or something written by one) who actually is an expert in the relevant field—scientists are recognizable as a group by their tendency, in such circumstances, to stick together. And from these people you will receive an account of how things work, or how things are, in the natural world around us—an account of what kind of universe it is that we are a part of.

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