Talk: Nora Boyd

Beyond Spacetime and the Geneva Symmetry Group are happy to present an online talk by Nora Boyd:

Wednesday, 9 December 2020, at 18:15 over zoom:

Nora Boyd (Siena College): Observation and Intervention are Irrelevant to Empirical Science

Please find the abstract below.

Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 915 9958 6401
Passcode: 599357


Nora Boyd (Siena College): Observation and Intervention are Irrelevant to Empirical Science

Abstract: It is tempting to define empirical science as investigation of the natural world via the methods of observation and targeted intervention in controlled experiments. This would leave much of astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology in the lurch since research in those fields often focuses on faraway targets that we cannot hope to observe directly much less manipulate. I will argue that, in general, observation and intervention are actually irrelevant to the empirical nature of scientific evidence, and hence for its epistemic utility in learning about nature. Instead, what matters is that the evidence derives from a causal chain that has one end anchored in the worldly target of interest. This view allows us to ask more interesting questions about the epistemology and methodology of space sciences than the traditional approach. I illustrate the fruitfulness of this view by applying it to cases that are otherwise particularly puzzling: a fascinating example of laboratory astrophysics from the National Ignition Facility, the highly processed images of M87*’s accretion disk from the Event Horizon Telescope, and the prospects for empirical constraints on multiverse hypotheses.

In terms of technical difficulty, this talk rates 3/5 Einsteins.


About wuthrich

I am a philosopher of physics at the University of Geneva.
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