Testing the claims that scientists make is extremely difficult. Testing the claims that philosophers of science make about science is even more difficult, difficult but not impossible. I discuss three efforts at testing the sorts of claims that philosophers of science make about science: the influence of scientists' age on the alacrity with which they accept new views, the effect of birth order on the sorts of contributions that scientists make, and the role of novel predictions in the acceptance of new scientific views. Without attempting to test philosophical claims, it is difficult to know what they mean.
We question the claim, common since Duhem, that sixteenth century astronomy, and especially the Wittenberg interpretation of Copernicus, was instrumentalistic rather than realistic. We identify a previously unrecognized Wittenberg astronomer, Edo Hildericus (Hilderich von Varel), who presents a detailed exposition of Copernicus's cosmology that is incompatible with instrumentalism. Quotations from other sixteenth century astronomers show that knowledge of the real configuration of the heavens was unattainable practically, rather than in principle. Astronomy was limited to quia demonstrations, although demonstration propter quid remained the ideal. We suggest that Osiander's notorious preface to Copernicus expresses these sixteenth century commonplaces rather than twentieth century instrumentalism, and that neither `realism', nor `instrumentalism', in their modern meanings, apply to sixteenth century astronomy.
Several recent studies in science and technology studies (STS), and in the history of science and technology, have highlighted the stochastic and uncontrollable nature of technological trajectory. In this paper I will examine three technologies--the Triode, the numerically controlled (NC) machine tool, and the Internet--each of which reflects a different aspect of technological uncertainty. I will argue that the Triode's seemingly unpredictable evolution is partly caused by limitations in our present historical knowledge about it. The NC machine's mysteriously unpredictable life emerged partly from the unpredictability in the conflict between workers and managers, and partly from historians' blurring the boundary between workers and managers, combining them into one general category--humans--and contrasting humans with machines. Finally, I will show that the Internet's tremendous momentum should not be interpreted as showing technology's autonomous life, since American engineers constantly intervened in its course through public shows and through the negotiation for international standardization procedures. On this basis, I will also critically examine the cultural meaning of autonomous technology including the constructivist discourses of nonhuman agency.