Why Trust a Theory? Reconsidering Scientific Methodology in Light of Modern Physics

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Why Trust a Theory? Reconsidering Scientific Methodology in Light of Modern Physics
7-9 December, 2015

Idea and Motivation

Fundamental physics today faces increasing difficulties to find conclusive empirical confirmation of its theories. Some empirically unconfirmed or inconclusively confirmed theories in the field have nevertheless attained a high degree of trust among their exponents and are de facto treated as well established theories. This situation raises a number of questions that are of substantial importance for the future development of fundamental physics. Can a high degree of trust in an empirically unconfirmed or inconclusively confirmed theory be scientifically justified? Does the extent to which empirically unconfirmed theories are trusted today constitute a substantial change of the character of scientific reasoning? Might some important theories of contemporary fundamental physics be empirically untestable in principle?

The workshop will be centred around an in-depth discussion of these and other related questions, with a particular focus on the methodological and philosophical aspects. As such, it will be an interdisciplinary event, involving physicists and philosophers of science. It will bring together main exponents of important theories in fundamental physics, physicists who have expressed criticism of the current strategies of theory assessment in fundamental physics and philosophers who have thought about those issues.