Colloquium: February 5

Speaker: Nora Boyd, Siena College

Date/Time: Friday, February 5th at 2:30pm via Zoom

Zoom link

Meeting ID: 962 1297 1124
Password: 152182

Title: Empirical Evidence and Its Accumulation Across Millenia


To effectively use a scientific result, you have to know quite a bit about where it came from. In other words, the epistemic utility of empirical results depends on the details of their provenance. The nature of the conditions involved in data collection impact the nature of the results. Similarly, theoretical assumptions, auxiliary evidence, and the particular manner in which data are transformed during analysis impart their influence on results too. Philosophers of science have focused on the epistemic dangers of this dependence. If empirical results are theory-laden, they worried, how can those results be suitably objective? In contrast, I have argued that in many cases, this dependence is what allows scientific results to be epistemically useful at all. This talk uses my notion of enriched evidence – according to which the evidence that constrains scientific theorizing incorporates information about data production and processing (metadata) – to assuage a puzzle in philosophy of science. Via an example of Babylonian eclipse records being repurposed for use in constraining contemporary geophysical theorizing, I argue that an enriched view of evidence helps us to understand how empirical evidence can survive transitions across vastly different historical and conceptual contexts without recourse to an elusive pure observation language or to perfectly raw data. This argument serves to further support my conclusion that empiricism should embrace theory-riddled evidence.