Can scientific knowledge be objective?

Julian Baggini in The Guardian:

B1f1f13b-278f-43e1-a66b-841776c51e39-2060x1368The physicist Richard Feynman once remarked that “philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds”. Some of his colleagues have not been so kind. When Stephen Hawking pronounced philosophy dead in 2011, it was only the fame of the coroner that made it news.

Good scientists, however, are willing to revise their theories on the basis of new data, and Tim Lewens’s wonderful addition to the excellent Pelican Introductions series, The Meaning of Science, is all the evidence any open-minded inquirer needs to demonstrate the worth of philosophy of science.

Those who dismiss the subject usually misunderstand it. They think either that philosophy of science is an armchair pursuit – woolly metaphysics instead of hard physics – or they think the job of philosophy of science is to help train scientists do their job. Although some scientists have indeed been helped by doing some philosophy, that is not the litmus test of its value. What philosophy brings to science is an understanding of what it means, intellectually, practically, politically and ethically.

Lewens first turns his attention to what science is and what it tells us: does it describe the world as it really is, or does it merely provide useful models to help us to manipulate it? Does it make progress, or are the theories of any age destined to be shed one by one, like a snake’s skin? Is there a clear, rigorous “scientific method” or just an ad-hoc hodgepodge of various techniques?

More here.