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John Martinson
04-21-1993, 12:33 AM
On Tue, 20 Apr 1993, William L. Siler, Ph.D. wrote:

> Last July, I joined the faculty of the Department of Physical Therapy at
> Saint Louis University. As a basic scientist working closely with
> clinicians and advising them as they conduct their research, I have begun
> to consider several philosophical questions.
>
I think you're into an important set of questions or problems and I encourage
you to pursue them even though you may have opened a bigger can of worms
for yourself than you now realize. Two suggestions: (1) Consider focusing
more on History of Science than Philosophy of Science; (2) Explore the
writings of the late Jacob Bronowski, particulary his short work "Science
and Human Values", but also his longer work "The Ascent of Man" which is
the text that accompanied his great TV series by the same title. The
latter is a testimony to humankind's efforts over millenia to achieve some
rational understanding of the world around us. As a mathematician and later
a mathematical biologist he was able to integrate a wide range of scientific,
historic and cultural subjects. And in the end he goes back to the
concentration camps of his native Poland to leave readers (and viewers)
with many important moral questions (well beyond the scope of the
so-called "moral majority").

Ultimately, I think the path you're on leads to questions about the
definition of the scientific culture (or community) and how it was that
this particular subculture arose only twice as far as we know in human
history--once two and a half millenia ago in Greece and then in post-medieval
Western Europe. In any case, it seems clear that a community of people who
ask those kinds of questions about nature and organize their efforts in the
ways we have to seek answers in collaborative efforts can only exist under
particular social, political and economic conditions. And the values or
precepts we use to decide what is "good" science or hard research are NOT
unrelated to other values or precepts accepted (or fought over) by larger
communities or cultures of humankind. Good Luck!

John Martinson UNR (114) Reno, NV 89557