Today's shaping up to be Epistemology Day.

Lost Down Social Constructionism’s Epistemic Rabbit-Hole (Quillette)

Echoes a lot of my frustration with Science and Technology Studies in graduate school. As someone who makes things, the social constructionist writers on technology would pat themselves on the back for demonstrating that something elaborated on the "social construction" of some phenomenon or other, and stop there. As someone who was looking to apply lessons from these histories (they aren't "science", even in the social sense), this was frustrating because there was no follow-through on what to do with the social construction or how one might leverage that toward some end or other.

The social constructivism in this particular paper still drives me into a blind rage, even a decade later.

That's not to say that the lens of social constructivism is completely without use, it's just that it can't be the only lens through which we try to describe reality.

The Philosophical Case Against Scientism (Quillette)

Interesting food for thought. However, I got caught up on the basic point that underlies the entire argument:

In moving beyond making observations of the past and forming a testable claim about the future, you’ve made an assumption that the latter tends to resemble the former. We can call the assumption you’ve made the Past-Future Thesis (PFT):

"The more consistently something has behaved a certain way in the past, the more likely it is that the thing will keep behaving the same way in the future."

What happens if you don’t assume the PFT, and instead assume that the future might be radically and unpredictably unlike the past? To make this clear, we’re now considering what happens if you don’t believe any past behavior makes similar future behavior more likely – that even a million trials with one result don’t make it any more likely that the next trial will have the same result.

I understand the author's point that the PFT underlies the scientific enterprise, especially using a hypothesis to generate a prediction of the future and seeing if that prediction is correct. However, this seems it include an embedded assumption about time only flowing one way and the only predictions that can be made are in the future. I'm pretty sure that's not true, given that I can also make predictions about what happened in the past given the current state of an object. If I see a car moving 60 MPH, I can make a pretty good prediction that a second ago, it was moving at that same speed, and if we assume that the past does not change, The PFT, or more accurately, the FPT (Future-Past Thesis), holds and this keystone supporting the scientific enterprise remains intact.

I don't know if there's a paradox or fallacy in this argument, but it was on my mind enough that it distracted from the rest of the article's argument. If the argument begins that science can't be philosophically justified because of a circular dependency between PFT and science demonstrating the PFT, and that argument doesn't account for the fact that the PFT/FPT predicts the past pretty well, then we're back at Square One.

A fetish for falsification and observation holds back science (Aeon)

Some interesting thoughts on the value of scientific observations, falsifiability, and creating room in science for speculating on phenomena that we cannot currently observe or validate.

Why Jewish History Is So Hard to Write (New Yorker)

Writing good histories is hard.

The unsolved mystery of who owns Sherlock Holmes’s original £130 million home (Quartz)

The mystery is afoot!

Image credit: Sydney Brown

This post will be updated throughout the day with other links I find interesting.

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