"The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
0.0 Motivation and Preliminaries
The world is messy, and science is hard. These two facts are, of course, related: science seeks to understand a messy world, and that’s a difficult task. Scientists have a variety of tools at their disposal to cope with this messiness: the creation of idealized models, the scientific division of labor, and the proliferation of increasingly elaborate pieces of technology all serve to help us predict and control a complex world. Not all tasks call for the application of the same tools, though, and so the scientific project takes all kinds: there’s room for a variety of contributions, and we must be willing to change tactics as new problems present themselves. Adaptation, flexibility, and collaboration are at the heart of scientific progress. This dissertation is intended not to be a work in the philosophy of science precisely, but neither is it, strictly speaking, a work of “pure science” (whatever that might mean). Rather, it is a philosophical contribution to science itself: I will attempt to employ the methods and tools of the philosopher to engage with a concrete issue in contemporary science—the problem of global climate change.
In March of 2010, Dr. Jon Butterworth of University College, London’s high energy physics group published a short piece in The Guardian titled “Come on, ‘philosophers of science,’ you must do better than this,” in which he called upon philosophers of science to make a real
- Butterworth (2010)