Do Electrons Really Exist?

Topics: Scientific method, Philosophy of science, Empiricism Pages: 3 (1008 words) Published: April 19, 2006
Do Electrons Really Exist?
Science has defined the nature of the world through an assortment of things that are observed in the physical world and those that are unobservable, improvable theories that explain the world. Electrons are unobservable. We cannot experience their existence with our own human senses. Do electrons really exist, or are they just useful fictions? Antirealists would explain that they do not exist because you cannot observe them. Realists would argue that electrons exist because they can be manipulated. With a close inspection of the arguments of antirealists, realists, and other philosophers of science, I believe that electrons do in fact exist. Antirealism holds that a theory is acceptable to the extent that it is empirically adequate, and it is empirically adequate to the extent that what it says about certain observed phenomena is true. Van Fraassen, an antirealist, holds an empiricist attitude towards science in his work The Scientific Image. In his constructive empiricist approach he argues that when we accept a theory we do not have to go beyond what the theory says about the observables. "Acceptance of a theory involves a belief only that it is empirically adequate" (Scientific Image, Fraassen). With these criteria, one could assert that an electron does not exist. The theory of an electron is not empirically adequate since we cannot experience it with our senses. This philosophy is supported by Schlick's argument that the meaning of statement is its method of verification. As we cannot see the electron within the given, it must not exist. Van Fraassen's argument does not however go so far as to say that electrons do not exist. He only means to point out that from an antirealist approach science does not supply good enough empirical evidence to say that there are electrons in the world. Electrons will never be real until they become considered observable in the physical world. This is assuming that we...
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