Philosophers of science of all stripes draw on the history of science. However, within philosophy of science there are diverging trends between literature in the history and philosophy of science and the work in (what often goes under the name of) ‘general’ philosophy of science. With the caveat that what follows paints a picture with very broad brushstrokes, the trend among those working on integrated history and philosophy of science is towards recognizing particular differences between scientific fields, periods, and practitioners. On the other hand, the driving motivation in general philosophy of science is towards unified frameworks and theories.
The decision of the Co-Chief-Editors of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science is that the Sir Karl Popper Prize for 2016 should be awarded jointly to Elizabeth Irvine for her paper ‘Model-Based Theorizing in Cognitive Neuroscience’ (Br J Philos Sci, 2016, 67, pp. 143–68) and Eran Tal for his paper ‘Making Time: A Study in the Epistemology of Measurement’ (Br J Philos Sci, 2016, 67, pp. 297–335).
Need scientists worry about philosophy? Or should philosophers get off their backs and let them do their work in peace? Unsurprisingly, many scientists want to stay clear of philosophical discussions. What is more disturbing is when I hear philosophers themselves announce that our discipline has nothing useful to offer science. In my view, they could not be more wrong.
A while back, we decided to implement a ‘soft’ word limit of 10,000 words and we asked authors who wanted to exceed this limit to write to us with a justification. More than a year later, we’ve found that not one paper submitted that exceeded 10,000 words couldn’t have been pruned and nonetheless retained all that mattered (and, indeed, was and did). So to make things more straightforward for all concerned, the Editors have decided to make the 10,000-word deadline firm. Papers exceeding this length will automatically be returned to authors.
Aesthetic considerations feature widely in science. Many scientists claim that aesthetic values guide their activities, motivate them to study nature, and even shape their attitude regarding the truth of a theory. Some scientists also regard the product of their intellectual activities, whether scientific theories, models, or mathematical proofs, as works of art. Interestingly, recent studies in neuropsychology have shown that exposure to beautiful equations activates the same area of the brain in mathematicians and scientists as exposure to beautiful pieces of art. How is the concept of beauty understood by scientists; how do they come to regard some features of a theory as aesthetically appealing; and what role can be given to aesthetic considerations in scientific reasoning?
There are many good reasons to want social policy to be based, where possible, on numerical evidence and indicators. If the data clearly shows that placing babies on their back reduces the risk of cot death, this information should guide the advice which midwives give to new parents. On the other hand, not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters. The care a midwife offers may be better or worse in ways that cannot be captured by statistical indicators. Furthermore, even when we are measuring something that matters, numbers require interpretation and explanation before they can be used to guide action. It is important to know if neo-natal mortality rates are rising or falling, but the proper interpretation of this data may require subtle analysis. To make matters worse, many actors aren’t interested in proper interpretation, but in using the numbers to achieve some other end; as a stick with which to beat the midwifery profession, say.
The Editors of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science recently took the decision to publish book reviews online-only in order to save as much space as possible for original articles in print editions. Following from this, we are happy to announce the launch of the BJPS Review of Books.
The BJPS is getting a shiny new look thanks to the good people at Studio Carreras.
BJPS Associate Editors don’t just act as midwives to great philosophy, they produce it too! Hot on the heels of ex-Associate Editor Marc Lange, Lara Buchak is featured in this year’s Philosopher’s Annual for her joint paper ‘Groupthink’, written with Jeffrey Sanford Russell and John Hawthorn, and published in Philosophical Studies.
Editing is more often than not a thankless job (look away now, potential Co-Editor-in-Chiefs). However, this is one of those rare happy moments when it all comes good. Yesterday, Thomson Reuters released the Journal Citation Report for 2015 and the BJPS continues its lead among philosophy of science journals, with an impact factor of 1.738.