Philosophy of Contemporary and Future Science

The HKCRC is in close collaboration with the Philosophy of Contemporary and Future Science project, which is also hosted at the Department of Philosophy at Lingnan University.

Philosophy of Contemporary and Future Science


Core Team:

Darrell Rowbottom, André Curtis-Trudel, and William Peden

Current Collaborators:

Colin Bain (Durham), Alexander Bird (Cambridge), Florian Boge (Wuppertal), Axel Gelfert (TU Berlin), Martin Hardcastle (Hertfordshire), Robin Hendry (Durham), Sabina Leonelli (Exeter), Tjonnie Li (CUHK), Wilson Poon (Edinburgh), Steve Tse (CUHK), and Jiji Zhang (HKBU)


Science has changed considerably in recent decades and continues to change at a remarkable rate. Many of the changes concern how science is done. Computer simulations are used to make predictions and to propose explanations. Gigantic databases of information – collections of ‘big data’ – are analyzed for patterns, to generate and test hypotheses. New areas of interdisciplinary science are forming, which involve attempts to integrate approaches from the older natural scientific disciplines of chemistry, physics, and biology. And artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to perform tasks that humans simply cannot. On the horizon are AI scientists.

This project will involve philosophers and scientists working together. It will examine some of the difficulties created by these new approaches and emerging developments, and tackle some of the interesting questions that they raise about the future of science. Some of the results will be of practical significance for science, e.g. concern how problems in collaborations involving different areas of science may be addressed, and other results will be of intellectual significance, e.g. in understanding the limits of current and future science.

Some of the specific questions this project will address are as follows. To what extent can experiments done on computers – computer simulations – stand in for experiments done ‘for real’, in the laboratory or the field? How can conflicts about what counts as a good method of inquiry, between scientists working in different areas, be resolved effectively? How does the changing social structure of science bear on what we should expect future science to produce? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having AI perform specific functions in future science? How might AI best be deployed?

Some Key Stated Objectives

(1) To study the role of new and emerging instruments and approaches in the key natural scientific disciplines (namely biology, physics, and chemistry), sub-disciplines thereof (e.g. soft condensed matter physics, astrophysics, molecular biology, and physical chemistry), and in interdisciplinary areas involving these.

(2) To identify key methodological differences between the aforementioned disciplines and sub- disciplines.

(3) To use the findings from (1) and (2) to:

  • (a) Inform the contemporary philosophical debate on the prospects for scientific realism and opposing views such as structural realism.
  • (b) Illuminate other issues in philosophy of science, e.g. the proper role of simulations, the proper division of scientific labour, and how theory and experiment (can and should) interact.
  • (c) Identify and find means of addressing the methodological challenges facing interdisciplinary scientific collaboration.
  • (d) Perform opportunistic collaborative research, especially in areas where the intervention of philosophers may assist scientists.
  • (e) Identify and consider challenges facing future science, e.g. concerning how AI might best be integrated.

No Data Next