May 13, 2011

Colloquium Speaker: David Harriman

David Harriman earned his Master’s degree in physics from University of Maryland, and his Master’s in philosophy from Claremont Graduate University. Early in his career, he worked as an applied physicist, developing gravity models that are used in state-of-the-art inertial navigation systems. Since then, his work has focused on the relationship between philosophy and physics. He has published articles on topics such as Galileo’s battle with the Church, the concept of space, philosophic influences on Enlightenment science, and the development of atomic theory. His recent book, The Logical Leap, presents a view of the scientific method that is based on a close examination of crucial discoveries in the history of science.

Colloquium Topic: Do Scientists Need Philosophy?

Many scientists think that philosophy is irrelevant to their work. David Harriman, a philosopher of science, will present the reasons for this widespread view and then make the case against it. Scientific research, he argues, necessarily depends on views about the nature of knowledge and how it is acquired. Using historical examples, he shows that true philosophic ideas have made possible the major achievements of science, whereas false philosophic ideas have led to science’s most embarrassing moments. Mr. Harriman will end by discussing some principles of method presented in his book, The Logical Leap, and he will indicate how those principles were induced from the history of science.