An Examination of the Merit of Climate Science From the Perspective of Imre Lakatos' Methodology of Scientific Research Programs




Thomas, Daniel

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There is a great deal of disagreement in the United States regarding the role that human activity has played in precipitating climate change. While the scientific community is generally in agreement that humans have brought about the observed increases in temperature, the general public is far less unified. Given that there has been copious data given by scientists to justify their claims, there must be another reason besides insufficient evidence why people choose not to agree with them. While political and ideological motivations elucidate this rift to a certain degree, they do not seem to provide a sufficiently comprehensive explanation. A reasonable solution is that people do not trust the scientific merit of climate science. Therefore this paper will examine climate science from the perspective of Imre Lakatos, a 20th century philosopher of science. His theory of what constitutes legitimate science, and what distinguishes it from pseudoscience, will be explored and compared to the theories of some of his contemporaries such as Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper. In short, Lakatos’ emphasis on novel predictions, as the marker of progressive scientific research, will enable the debate over climate science to be viewed from a philosophical perspective. Rather than present answers to a myriad of individual facts, this approach provides standards for adjudicating methods and research programs more broadly. The indications are that climate science has made accurate and novel predictions about shifts in the climate and therefore would be regarded as a progressive research program by Lakatos.



Climate science., Philosophy of science.