Issue 27, June 2004
Testing through Realizable Models
How is a scientific theory, especial a classical physical theory, tested? This problem has a long history. In this paper I’ll propose a theory of testing based on but differentiated from Giere’s studies on the structure of scientific theories (Giere 1988, 1994, 1999). I will show, from both theoretical and historical perspectives, that a scientific theory can always be understood as one contains a classified model population, including both higher-level models and realizable models, and that scientists always test a theory through its realizable models. To transmit the consequences of testing realizable models to a higher-level model is a very complicated mechanism. Therefore, it is unlikely that a whole theory could ever be completely confirmed or falsified, even if some of its realizable models have
been conclusively confirmed or falsified. Finally, I’ll illustrate such a theory of testing can give an adequate account of the testing history of a scientific theory, for example, the Newtonian theory. This theory of testing is a rational reconstruction, in Lakatosian sense, of the process of scientific testing.