Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It

Knowledge and Truth Are Age-Old Problems
1: Knowledge and Truth Are Age-Old Problems

What is it that scientists know, and how do they know what they know? The "science wars" in the late 20th century were a dispute within modern science that signals a deep, longstanding conflict over this question....

32 min
Competing Visions of the Scientific Method
2: Competing Visions of the Scientific Method

This lecture casts doubt on the popular notion that the rise of modern science in the early 17th century was the result of discovering a single method for extracting objective truths about nature from subjective experience....

30 min
Galileo, the Catholic Church, and Truth
3: Galileo, the Catholic Church, and Truth

The Catholic Church has been cast as villain in its condemnation of Galileo, but a great deal hinges on whether Galileo possessed knowledge and was defending truth, or was promoting personal opinions based on his beliefs....

30 min
Isaac Newton's Theory of the Universe
4: Isaac Newton's Theory of the Universe

Isaac Newton's mathematical theory of gravity and motion works, and for more than 200 years was lauded as finally giving knowledge of physical reality. But Newtonian physics is wrong, in spite of "working."...

31 min
Science vs. Philosophy in the 17th Century
5: Science vs. Philosophy in the 17th Century

From the beginning, modern science used novel instruments that disclosed realities that cannot be experienced directly. But the very novelty of these instruments raised questions about what it was they revealed....

31 min
Locke, Hume, and the Path to Skepticism
6: Locke, Hume, and the Path to Skepticism

John Locke formulated the classic empirical theory of knowledge, while George Berkeley mounted a vigorous attack on modern science, and David Hume embraced skepticism, criticizing unjustifiable knowledge claims....

31 min
Kant Restores Certainty
7: Kant Restores Certainty

Immanuel Kant invented a philosophical system that guaranteed universal, necessary, and certain knowledge, but at a price. We could have knowledge of experience, but not of the world as it "really" is, beyond experience....

31 min
Science, Society, and the Age of Reason
8: Science, Society, and the Age of Reason

The role that scientific knowledge plays in society today is the realization of the 18th-century Enlightenment vision linking social reform and the idea of progress to reason by way of science....

31 min
Science Comes of Age in the 19th Century
9: Science Comes of Age in the 19th Century

In spite of science's growing applicability to the real world through technology, scientists began to question the relationship between theories and reality, influenced by such startling ideas as non-Euclidean geometry....

31 min
Theories Need Not Explain
10: Theories Need Not Explain

Joseph Fourier and others showed that a theory can provide prediction and control without describing realities behind experience. But then as now, the dominant view was that scientific theories reveal what is really out there....

32 min
Knowledge As a Product of the Active Mind
11: Knowledge As a Product of the Active Mind

William Whewell invented the term "scientist" and tried to demonstrate that creative activity by the mind is a fundamental factor in scientific reasoning, and that the history of science is crucial in understanding this process....

31 min
Trading Reality for Experience
12: Trading Reality for Experience

This lecture looks at thinkers as diverse as Ernst Mach, Pierre Duhem, and Heinrich Hertz, who argued from three different perspectives that theories were non-unique interpretations of experience, not descriptions of reality....

31 min
Scientific Truth in the Early 20th Century
13: Scientific Truth in the Early 20th Century

Ironically, just as science increasingly mattered to the general public, and for that reason scientific knowledge was accepted as true, the 19th-century scientific theories responsible for this perception were being discarded!...

32 min
Two New Theories of Scientific Knowledge
14: Two New Theories of Scientific Knowledge

The most proscience philosophies in the first half of the 20th century were logical positivism, which embraced the primacy of scientific knowledge, and pragmatism, a homegrown American philosophy that rejected it....

32 min
Einstein and Bohr Redefine Reality
15: Einstein and Bohr Redefine Reality

Relativity and quantum theory raised new questions about the relationship of science to reality. This lecture addresses these questions, which continue unresolved to this day....

32 min
Truth, Ideology, and Thought Collectives
16: Truth, Ideology, and Thought Collectives

The most radical theory of scientific knowledge to be formulated in the 1930s came from immunologist Ludwik Fleck, who used the history of syphilis as a vehicle for exploring what scientists know and how they know it....

32 min
Kuhn's Revolutionary Image of Science
17: Kuhn's Revolutionary Image of Science

The 1962 publication of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions sparked a reassessment by intellectuals of the privileged status of scientific knowledge and more broadly of the possibility of true objectivity....

32 min
Challenging Mainstream Science from Within
18: Challenging Mainstream Science from Within

Scientific thinking has a collective character shaped by education and professional community life, but scientific theories also evolve, and highly credentialed "outsiders" play a role....

32 min
Objectivity Under Attack
19: Objectivity Under Attack

Israel Scheffler and Paul Feyerabend assumed opposite stances in response to Kuhn's thesis. Independently, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida launched an attack on the very possibility of objective knowledge....

32 min
Scientific Knowledge as Social Construct
20: Scientific Knowledge as Social Construct

In the 1980s, a consensus formed that scientific and technological knowledge were not value-neutral, but the products of communal practices deeply affected by professional and societal values....

32 min
New Definitions of Objectivity
21: New Definitions of Objectivity

While many intellectuals after 1960 were busily denouncing Western ideals of rationality, knowledge, and truth as politically motivated myths, many philosophers of science proposed defensible theories of scientific realism....

32 min
Science Wars of the Late 20th Century
22: Science Wars of the Late 20th Century

In 1996, a postmodern journal addressed the science wars after a decade of hostility between scientists and supporters of the social construction view. The journal unwittingly published a parody of postmodernism known as Sokal's hoax....

31 min
Intelligent Design and the Scope of Science
23: Intelligent Design and the Scope of Science

Is intelligent design a scientific hypothesis? This question highlights issues of who defines what science is, what constitutes good science, and what words like rationality, truth, knowledge, and reality mean....

32 min
Truth, History, and Citizenship
24: Truth, History, and Citizenship

At a time when science is involved in profound social, moral, and environmental challenges, misunderstanding the positions of competing interpretations of science is an obstacle to effective action....

33 min
Steven L. Goldman

After 50 years, I continue to find new depths and fresh excitement in studying the history and philosophy of science.

ALMA MATER

Boston University

INSTITUTION

Lehigh University

About Steven L. Goldman

Dr. Steven L. Goldman is the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Lehigh University, where he has taught for 30 years. He earned his B.S. in Physics at the Polytechnic University of New York and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston University.

Before taking his position at Lehigh, Professor Goldman taught at The Pennsylvania State University, where he was a cofounder of one of the first U.S. academic programs in science, technology, and society studies.

Professor Goldman has received the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award from Lehigh University. A prolific author, he has written or edited eight books, including Science, Technology, and Social Progress, and he has an impressive list of scholarly articles and reviews to his credit. He has been a national lecturer for the scientific research society Sigma Xi and a national program consultant for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Also By This Professor