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Falsification Protection


Despite the way that O propositions of the ‘Some A are not B’ form falsify A or universal affirmative propositions in Aristotelian logic and its up-dated versions, contrary evidence is sufficient to lead to the abandonment of a law-like proposition that is deeply embedded in a scientific context only in very special circumstances. There are so many ceteris paribus conditions attached to chemical equations and so much opportunity to attach more, that once such a proposition becomes an established part of chemistry it is scarcely ever abandoned. Most equations describe idealised forms of reactions in which the transformation of substances goes through 100%. In inorganic chemistry this is a fair approximation but in organic chemistry yields of 60% are often regarded as satisfactory, without the disparity between the ideal and the actual reaction casting doubt on the original equation. Furthermore, any one chemical equation highlights just one among a myriad reactions into which elements and compounds involved enter. Coherence is a very strong conservative force in chemistry.However, there is a more fundamental reason for the resistance to falsifiability of chemical equations. Over the last hundred and fifty years the homogenous regresses of chemistry have enlarged greatly. However, after Cannizaro's memoir of 1859 that sorted out the relation between equivalent and atomic weights, the formulae expressed in chemical equations look pretty much the same. Huge changes have taken place in the heterogeneous regress of currently totalised chemistry. Granted that the Berzelian insight that Coulomb forces and electrostatic attractions should be fundamental explainers in the opening levels of the heterogeneous regress, the advent of quantum mechanics has changed all that. But what it cannot change are the chemical equations.Chemistry as an ordered body of homogenous regresses involves concepts like ‘mixture’, ‘compound’, ‘element’, ‘elective affinity [valency], ‘acid’, ‘base’, ‘metal’, ‘colloidal state’ and so on. It seems to me that none of these concepts is used in an agentive way. In ‘kitchen’ chemistry we think of acids as the active agent of corrosion. However, we are equally inclined to think of alkalis as active agents, when, for instance, we are cleaning the drains. This has nothing whatever to do with chemistry as a science. In the well known formula ‘acid plus base equals salt plus water’, recited by generations of young scholars, there is a time line but no agentive concepts at all.In the Berzelian account of chemical processes, within the shadow of which contemporary chemistry still lies, there are causal agents galore. However, they come into play only when the homogeneous regress of chemical concepts is underpinned by the heterogeneity of concepts needed to portray the behaviour of charged ions, electrons and protons in exchanges, and everything that prepared the way for the rewriting of the physical processes that we now believe are germane to chemical processes in terms of wave functions. Ions are the first level of powerful particulars, but they have their (Coulomb) causal powers only by virtue of the second level of powerful particulars, electrons and protons, the causal powers of which are basic natural endowments.


Date: 2015-01-12; view: 705

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