Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dawkins, "Facts," & "Theories"

Nicholas Wade's review of Richard Dawkins's new book (The Greatest Show on Earth) has sparked some controversy, especially in how Wade critiqued Dawkins for "getting his knickers twisted" on the distinction between a "fact" and a "theory."

For the feedback in today's nytimes go here.

I find this feedback helpful, as the terms "fact" and "theory" are, mostly, thrown around without clarification. Here, for me, is where philosophy of science studies can help. It's odd to call a "theory" a scientific "fact," since science qua science only weights, measures, quantifies, etc. It is instructive to note that one does not look under the microscope and say "Look, there's a theory!" I think it is misguided to call the theory of evolution a fact. Evolution may be a fact; the theory is not, at least in the sense that, e.g., it is a fact that Detroit is in the state of Michigan.