What Scientists Know
and How They Know It

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Modern science began as a method to gain knowledge of nature, but soon promoted itself as the exclusive rational path to acquiring knowledge of the true causes of experience.
Dr. Steven

Lehigh University

Steven Goldman is the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Lehigh University, where he has taught for 30 years. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics at the Polytechnic University of New York and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston University.

Before taking his position at Lehigh, Professor Goldman taught at Pennsylvania State University, where he was a cofounder of one of the first U.S. academic programs in science, technology, and society studies.

A prolific author, Dr. Goldman has written or edited eight books, including Science, Technology, and Human Progress, and has an impressive list of scholarly articles and reviews to his credit. He has been a national lecturer for the scientific research society Sigma Xi and a national program consultant for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Professor Goldman has received the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award from Lehigh University.

Are scientific theories true because they correspond to reality? How can we know that they do, given that we have no access to reality except through experience, which scientists themselves tell us is profoundly different from the the way things "really" are?

Are theories true because they account for experience and make correct predictions? This sounds plausible, but theories that we now consider wrong once were considered true because they accounted for our experience and made successful predictions then! Should we assume that as new experiences accumulate, current theories will be replaced, as all previous theories have been? But in that case, theories are not really knowledge or truth, in the strict sense of those words, but a special case of experience-validated educated opinion.