Friday, 16 February 2007
Are Chemical Bonds Real?
Michael Weisberg, Department of Philosophy
University of Pennsylvania
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: Atoms and molecules are often regarded as the easy cases for scientific realism, but things might not be so straightforward for the covalent bonds connecting atoms in molecules. In 1951, Charles Coulson, one of the founders of quantum chemistry and committed scientific realist, wrote “a chemical bond is not a real thing: it does not exist, no one has ever seen it, no one ever can. It is a figment of our own imagination.” Reluctantly, I will argue that Coulson is correct, because quantum chemistry has shown us that chemical bonds are not real. I will also discuss how chemists can do such remarkable things with the non-referring concept of a covalent bond.