The scientific community is expected to produce facts. They are placed in a pedestal because of the discoveries they make. These discoveries are believed to explain particular mysteries in the world of experience. But most of the time, scientists refer to entities which are very hard to prove as existing. Some of these entities include atomic and sub-atomic particles which cannot be seen by the naked eye but is believed to exist based on certain laboratory experiments. I will argue in this paper that engineering, construction of scientific machines and equipment, is indeed the best proof of scientific realism about entities just as Hacking presented in his paper.
Realism is the principle which claims that a, b, and c exists because they do have particular properties which are independent of anyones beliefs, linguistic practices, and conceptual schemes (Miller, 2010). These scientific entities exist prior to our birth in this world. Electrons have roamed the universe prior to our existence and what scientists are merely doing is to discover these entities, know their functions and make them known to the world.
Those who criticize scientific realism fall prey to the close relationship of theory-entity. They believe that theoretical entities, like the electron, can only be considered as factual entity the moment the theory is proven to be successful (Laudan, 1981, p. 24). But in the eyes of Hacking, that is not the case. There should be a distinction made between theories and scientific entities. Hacking does not support realism in scientific theories but he supports realism is applied in scientific entities.
The difference between realism in models and theories against realism in entities lies in its function. Scientific models and theories are products of the mind (Hacking, 1982, p. 73). They are formulated, created, and invented for thinking, calculating and predicting. At times, these models and theories are used in order obtain further funding to investigate scientific entities. Thus models and theories create new phenomena which are then incorporated to technology but entities need not be created because their existence needs no further evidence but their function does.
There are many approaches regarding meaning and existence but Putnams referential model of meaning saves science from the tangles associated with this. He argues that meaning is a vector. It follows these processes syntactic marker, the word belonging to part of speech or the birth of naming semantic marker, providing the general category of thing signified by the word stereotypes and actual reference (Hacking, 1982, p. 73). Scientific entities easily pass the syntactic marker, semantic marker and stereotype stage but needs assistance when it reaches actual references. I have earlier stated that most scientific entities are so minute even the best equipments find it very difficult to even have a physical representation of it. We accept the fact that electrons do exist but as of the moment we still lack a photo which will significantly show a visual representation of it. This is the only reason why we need the aid of experiments and engineering. We need it only for the sole purpose of further knowing its specifications and features.
This realization is further supported by the fact that amidst varying theories involving electrons over the years, scientists find no difficulty in using the term electron. They share the same meaning associated with it. It was originally coined as a natural unit of electricity by G. Johnstone Stoney in 1891 and underwent more modifications as scientists got more acquainted with it through the aid of high technology equipments and machines. It was soon discovered by Lorentz that electrons have amass which is 11800 that of hydrogen (Hacking, 1982, p. 75). But the modification in the stages of meaning does no great effect on the evidence of the existence of scientific entities. It fails to do any damage but only adds credibility to its authenticity.
The experimenters use of entities in the formulation of their theories can be likened to a person twisting the lions tail. According to Francis Bacon, experimentation is interference in the course of nature (Hacking, 1982, p. 75). You can only manipulate that which already exists because you cannot mold anything that is not there in existence. Hacking further adds that experimenters are already convinced of the causal properties and reality of these entities which allows them to use these entities to interfere elsewhere in nature (p. 75). But in case an experiment fails, it does not entail that the existence of the scientific also ceases. It is simply a wrong analysis in the part of the experimenter with regards to the proper functions of the scientific entity itself.
This is best proven in the engineering of Peggy II, a polarizing electron gun which was invented in the year 1978. The invention of Peggy II is motivated by the following factors how to manipulate electrons, what sort of things they will do reliably and how they tend to misbehave (Hacking, 1982, p. 78). Around a century ago, scientists are in dispute whether electrons do exist but the engineering of Peggy II further showed its movement and functions does increasing the credibility of its existence. It is functional in the world we live in and this makes a great difference in its existence.
According to Alexander Bain, some hypothesis consists of assumptions as to the minute structure and operations of bodies but since they cannot be directly proven they can simply be called as Representative Fictions (Hacking, 1982, p. 85). He further adds that these only serve for the purpose of intellectual function. Laudan supports this claim by stating that substances (scientific entities) in the world only correspond to the ontology presumed by our best theories (Laudan, 1981, p.20). Scientific theories are merely truth approximation and the entities which are used by science acts in the same manner. Their truth rests only in the success of the experimentations done which tests the validity of their claim. Laudan does not share the same ideology Hacking has regarding the distinction of realism in theories and realism in entities. There is nothing like that in existence for him. The truth of one entails the truth of another.
Laudan further refutes Putnams referential model of meaning by arguing that it is simply based on an approximation of fitness towards the theorys description (Laudan, 1981, p. 24). It is wrong to assume that experimenters do not manipulate the features of scientific entities because that is exactly what they are doing when they engage in experimentation. He provides the following historical facts pertaining to the development of science to prove his claim. In the 18th century, most chemists abandoned the chemical atomic theory the Wegenerian theory which states the continents are carried by large subterranean objects moving laterally across the earths surface was also an unsuccessful only after several major modifications in the 1960s and 1970s and the Proutian theory which states that the atoms of heavy elements are composed of hydrogen was also heavily refuted in the 19th century (p. 24).
Aside from these, there are other flaws in previously popular scientific theories. This includes Dalton and Bohrs earlier theory regarding atoms and electrons. According to Laudan theories have far greater falsity content than truth content which make it more fictional rather than realistic. Theories are not always successful in proving their claim and together with it is the failure to validate the characteristics and functions of the entities which they incorporated in their theories.
Unfortunately, this is not the argument pushed forward by Hacking. He did not state in any way that scientific entities cannot be modified in terms of its function and character. He actually makes room for possible modifications especially during the stereotype stage in meaning which historically happened with our scientific concept of an electron. Thus there are really room for revisions and modification even for scientific entities but it will not imply that they do not exist in nature. We simply lack the proper equipment to know more about it features thus we commit errors in judgment.
These errors and revisions only necessitate the need for experimentation and engineering. These methods are seriously takes so it will eventually prove the scientific realism of these scientific entities. Science rests on evidences and not on assumptions. If it rests on mere assumption then it will fall under the category of religion. I have earlier stated the stages of Putnams referential model of meaning and implied that experimentation will lead to the last stage of meaning which is actual reference. Since we cannot point at specific electron on our naked eyes, we need to devise machines which can aid us in doing so. We construct machines not to prove in anyway the existence of these scientific entities but we do so to further know its characteristics, behavior and functions.
When Alexander Bain wrote his argument regarding Representative Fiction, technology was not yet that advanced. Man is not yet equipped with knowledge that can engineer machines like Peggy I and Peggy II. It may indeed be called as Representative Fiction during his time but it is definitely not in our time. When we speak of atoms, electrons, neutrons and photons we are discussing about real entities. We are not discussing about fictional characters like unicorns, elves, leprechauns and golden mountains. We are not also hallucinating when we enter in intellectual discourse which includes these entities. We use it in scientific conversations, discourses and forums because they are worth discussing and our entities which do exist in the world and we have hard evidences to prove their existence.
The approximation of fit argument of Laudan has no damaging effect on Hackings claims it only supports it. By arguing that scientists modify entities to fit their theories, he is only attesting the fact that these entities do exist because modifications are not possible in fictional entities unless you are a fictional writer. We should bear in mind that the role of science is to investigate and discover. Its role is to find answers to several empirical questions in the world. Empirical questions demand empirical answers and one of the best empirical answers will be to point at a representation of your conclusion. Since we cannot do so on our own, we need to rely on another by product of mans ingenuity and intelligence, which is engineering and experimentation.


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