Sample Philosophy of Science Questions 1. What is the standard “scientific method” that is taught? 2.

Show a specific example of the type of reasoning actually used by scientists. What specific limitation (problem) is there with this type of reasoning? 3. What method is used to help insure that articles appearing in scientific journals are accurate and of high quality? 4. If you were going to do a quick skim of a journal article, what would be the best part to read? 5. Distinguish between basic research, developmental research, and technology. In addition to your description, give a specific example of each. 6. Define the term paradigm. Give one example of a currently accepted 7. List two things a theory must be able to do. 8. What is meant when I say a good scientific theory must be falsifiable? 9. What sort of relationship normally exists between a current paradigm and the one it replaced? 10. Write down a specific example which shows that a theory cannot be tested alone, but must be tested in bundles. 11. What is an auxiliary hypothesis and what relationship does it have to the central paradigm? 12. List two characteristics of a pseudoscience. 13. What is a universal negative? Why is it impossible to prove one? 14. Describe a common excuse often given by many pseudo sciences for why their ideas are not accepted. 15. If confronted by someone who claims their ideas are scientific, what sort of questions should you ask yourself and that person?

Answers to Sample Philosophy of Science Questions 1. Make Observations Record Data Organize information Induce general theory from data Make predictions Make new observations 2. It is a type of logic related to inductive reasoning. A problem is that the conclusion drawn is not the only possible one. In this type of logic, there exists the possiblility that the premise is due to something else. In other words, the conclusion drawn is subject to falsification. Example: Premise- If atoms exist, then elements will combine in constant ratio by mass. Observation- Elements combine in constant ratio by mass. Conclusion- Atoms exist. 3. The process of peer review is used. Articles submitted to journals are sent to appropriate experts who check the article for potential problems. Most suggestions for rewriting or additional data are usually carried out before the article is published. 4. Look at the abstract directly below the title. 5. Basic Research- Its purpose is simply to discover something new about the universe, without any application in mid. E.g. Discovery of a gravitational lens caused by a distant galaxy. Developmental Research- Application of basic research to a practical problem. E.g. Development of a vaccine. Technology- The end product of developmental research. E.g. An electric toothbrush. 6. A paradigm is a relatively small set of problem solving techniques which can be applied to a wide variety of problems. Another definition is a set of fundamental theories of a given science. E.g. In geology, the unifying principle is plate tectonics. 7. It must make predictions, have observable consequences, be limited in scope so as not to include any possibility, and it must be falsifiable. 8. A good theory is open ended. It always leaves open problems which its practitioners can investigate. The theory can allow only for certain things to happen. If the theory fails in some fundamental way to explain an observation, it is said to be falsifiable. 9. Paradigm shifts normally are discontinuous, with little relationship between the old and new paradigms. For example, in Newton’s universe, there is an absolute frame of reference with time

constituting a separate element, but in Einstein’s universe, there is not an absolute frame of reference and time is incorporated intimately into the framework of space. 10. Example- The theory that the age of samples can be determined by using the radioisotope carbon-14. Rest of Bundle: Nuclear transmutation from N-14 to C-14 occurs as predicted in upper atmosphere. Theory of cosmic radiation is accurate so N-14 can convert to C-14. Theory of operation of a Geiger tube. Electronic theory which measures output of Geiger tube. The part of atomic theory which postulates the existence of isotopes. Theory that radioisotopes exist and decay according to the theory. 11. A hypothesis invoked to explain an observation not predicted by the paradigm. This auxiliary hypothesis must be testable independently from its paradigm. That is, the bundle it is tested in must not include its associated paradigm. 12. A. The basic theory tends to remain constant no matter what evidence comes to light. B. Believers usually do not do research or carry out practices which fit the mold of a successful science. C. The main theory is kept intact by randomly adding untestable auxiliary hypotheses. D. Mathematical modeling is very rare. What small amount that’s done tends to be untestable and so unfalsifiable. E. It makes no contributions to normal science. The only interaction which occurs is for the pseudoscience to borrow terms from normal science in order to make themselves sound legitimate to others uneducated in the methods of science. 13. This is an attempt to conclusively prove that something cannot exist. It is not possible to prove one since there is often a residue of experiments or observations which cannot be explained, and new observations can always be made. One could spend all eternity disproving each new observation. For example, are UFOs spacecraft made by beings from another world? There is always a small residue of sightings which cannot be explained and new ones are always being seen. The alien UFO theory cannot ever be completely disproved.. Remember that the small residue of sightings that are unexplained does not constitute good evidence for aliens. Apply Occam’s Razor. 14. A. Our theory is so different from orthodox science that scientists cannot understand our theory, methods, or results. B. Controlled studies exist simply to repress unorthodox ideas. C. Scientists are afraid of losing their funding when the people discover we are right. 15. A. What are the basic premises, assumptions, and predictions of the idea? B. How does this theory compare to and fit in with well established theories? C. What data does the person have to back up his claims? D. Is it real data or untestable assertions? E. Is the person making claims in areas which have been riddled with fraud in the past? E.g. ESP,

UFOs, unorthodox medical theories. Be very careful if the answer is yes here. F. Are there alternative explanations for the observations reported? Apply Occam’s Razor. G. Can the theory explain every possible observation or is the theory limited by committing itself to only certain outcomes? If it can explain everything seen, then it cannot be falsified and is a pseudoscience. H. Unfortunately, you must also ask yourself about possible ulterior motives if the theory is unorthodox. Is this person out to make money? Does this theory bolster someone’s religious viewpoint? Is this theory trying to make a moral or ethical point? Once again, you need to become deeply skeptical if the answer is yes to any of these questions. I. Are the auxiliary hypotheses testable independently from the main theory? J. Does the person spend most of the time criticizing normal science? If the answer is yes here, you almost certainly have a pseudoscience. Imagine what the editor of a scientific journal would think of an article submitted if 90% of it was spent criticizing others works.

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