The Ontological Fallacy of Science

Realism is not a conclusion that can be proved logically either by science or in any other way.  But all persons are experientially aware of reality from the awakening of consciousness.  That awareness is a primordial prejudice .  One is reminded of Bertrand Russell’s “proof” for realism: after announcing his intent he simply raised his hands.  Nothing spoken, but enough said.  This awareness grows in sophistication with the acquisition of language including in due course the acquisition of the language of science.  The advancement of science is the increasing adequacy of human knowledge of the real world.  For the empirical scientist the consciousness of reality becomes astute when theory reveals reality, and acute when reality refutes theory.  A falsifying test outcome is no time for Cartesian doubt that the first object of human knowledge is the recalcitrant real world.  Such is the basis for scientific realism .  Scientific realism is the thesis that the most critically empirically tested and currently nonfalsified theory, i.e. a scientific law, in science is the most adequate available description of reality.”

Here is what I refer to as the “ ontological fallacy” of Scientific Realism enacted in a single paragraph. While “awareness” of reality may indeed come with the awakening of consciousness, the in-itself nature of reality does not thereby become transparent. A “test outcome” qualifies the predictive validity of a given theory about the way reality behaves, giving a model of what may underlie the realities we experience, but it remains a model that has no intrinsic connection with the in-itself it models other than behavioral symmetry. If “ for the empirical scientist the consciousness of reality becomes astute when theory reveals reality”, for the astute philosopher the empirical scientist has modelled the behaviour of reality more or less accurately, but cannot “reveal” reality, since his only access to reality remains the same presentation in its representation in consciousness that was there to begin with. That there is a reality is a posit that science simply has to accept in order to function as the science that it is, that the in-itself of reality has anything fundamentally to do with scientific theories other than behavioral symmetry is a prejudice unsupported by experience and rendered observably unlikely in the history of changes of particular theories of the particular sciences.

2 responses to “The Ontological Fallacy of Science

  • Jubal

    A posit about reality does not necessarily have to be used; a posit about the models will do, thus avoiding the ontological trap.

  • Mitdasein

    An initial posit of the reality of the subject matter is necessary to secure the notion of behavioural symmetry between the model and the reality it models. Thus physics requires a posit of the reality of movement in order to provide models of movement that satisfy behavioural symmetry by exhibiting predictive validity when compared to observation.

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