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Scientific Metarealism

Hassan Ajami
2018 / 11 / 17

A main debate in philosophy of science is whether scientific theories are true´-or-just acceptable as useful tools. There are two competing philosophical theories: scientific realism and scientific antirealism. According to scientific realism, scientific theories are true because they are successful in explaining and predicting the natural phenomena, while, for scientific antirealism, scientific theories are neither true nor false but rather they are only acceptable as useful tools for explaining and predicting the natural phenomena. Yet it is always possible to develop a new theory, such as scientific metarealism.

From the perspective of scientific metarealism, it is indeterminate which scientific theory is true. This is why all scientific theories behave as if they are true. And hence, this is why all of the scientific theories are successful (in explaining and predicting the natural phenomena) although they differ from each other. Thus, scientific metarealism, which says that it is indeterminate which scientific theory is true, successfully explains why all of the scientific theories are successful although they contradict each other. This indicates that scientific metarealism has a strong explanatory power, leading to its acceptance.

All scientific theories are successful although they are different because it is objectively indeterminate which one of them is actually true. If it is determinate which scientific theory is true, then only one scientific theory should be successful in explaining the universe, namely the true theory. Yet many scientific theories are successful (such as Newton’s theory, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and quantum mechanics), although they are different. Therefore, it is indeterminate which scientific theory is true, exactly as scientific metarealism says. This shows that scientific metarealism is accurate.

Moreover, scientific metarealism logically follows from the fact that the universe itself is indeterminate. Quantum mechanics holds that the universe is indeterminate, such that it is indeterminate whether the particles (such as electrons) are actually particles´-or-waves. And this is why they behave as being particles and waves at the same time, although a particle is supposed to be contrary to what a wave is. Now, if we accept quantum mechanics which says that the universe is indeterminate, and given that scientific theories are supposed to represent the universe, it naturally follows that it is indeterminate (as well) which scientific theory is true. This is how quantum mechanics provides strong evidence for accepting scientific metarealism.

The thesis of the indeterminacy of which scientific theory is true could be legitimately labeled as “scientific metarealism” because it asks us to conceive what is beyond our ordinary conception of reality, namely to conceive reality as being indeterminate.




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