The scientific status of cosmology
Tomsons, Corey Alexander
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This project is concerned with protecting modern physical cosmology from arguments which wrongly conclude that it is unscientific. It is shown that these arguments rely upon demarcation criteria which are misapplied, and that such criteria are, in general, incapable of demonstrating that the theory, discipline, or practice in question is epistemically flawed. This follows in part from an analysis of arguments made by Mario Bunge and Ian Hacking, to the effect that cosmology is unscientific. Bunge argues that this is so with regard to the Steady State Theory because of demarcation criteria comprising the Popperian demand that scientific theories be testable, and his own requirement that scientific theories possess particular ontological postulates; Hacking argues that this is so with regard to astrophysical theories generally because they cannot be given the realist interpretation he requires of scientific theory. I demonstrate that each criterion is wrong, and examine the empirical status of modern cosmology to rebut criticisms that it is unscientific because its theories are overly speculative. Particular attention is paid to theories about the origins and early history of the universe, and it is shown that scientists must employ a Uniformitarian thesis if they are to remain empirically credible about this subject. Finally, an argument put forward by Larry Laudan is refurbished to show that scientific status of theories is irrelevant to any genuine criticism of them. From these considerations it follows that arguments to the effect that cosmology is unscientific are mistaken in their criteria and overstated in their significance.