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>> visiting fellows, 2014-15 >>
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland
Fall Term 2014
Qualitative Uncertainty in Science – The Case of the Threshold of Toxicological Concern Approach in Health Risk Assessment
Karim Bschir studied biochemistry at the University of Zurich and completed his PhD thesis in philosophy at the ETH Zurich in 2011. His areas of specialization are general philosophy of science, philosophy of nature, and metaphysics of science. In his thesis entitled Science and Reality – An Essay on Pragmatic Realism (published in German at Mohr Siebeck Verlag), he defended an argument in the debate on scientific realism, which claims that we are entitled to accept the existence of unobservable entities to a higher degree than we are entitled to accept our theories about them as true.
That is to say that we can be realists without being all too optimistic about the truth of our current best theories. The analysis included a critique of the sensualist notion of experience of the empiricist tradition showing that, first, this notion does not adequately capture the experimental practice of the natural sciences, that, second, it does not provide a suitable basis for an explanation of our epistemic access to the world, and, third, that it therefore blocks any satisfactory answer to the question of scientific realism.
In his current research, Karim takes a look at how science deals with different kinds of uncertainty. During his residence in Pittsburgh, he will focus on uncertainties in toxicology, and in particular on the question how unquantifiable uncertainties are dealt with in the context of health risk assessments. Karim’s research is supported by Society in Science – The Branco Weiss Fellowship.
2016 Recent Publications:
- “Risk, Uncertainty and Precaution in Science: The Threshold of Toxicological Concern Approach in Food Toxicology” forthcoming in Science and Engineering Ethics. (most of this paper has been written during my visiting fellowship at Pitt)
- “Feyerabend and Popper on Theory Proliferation and Anomaly Import: On the Compatibility of Theoretical Pluralism and Critical Rationalism” HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 5 (1): 24-55, 2015.
I am currently working on a monograph on Prediction and Uncertainty in Science. My main interest lies in a descriptive analysis of predictive practices in current science. Furthermore, I became a guest editor (together with Hasok Chang and Simon Lohse) of a special issue for Synthese on Systematicity in Science.