I got to meet a philosphy of science hero of mine, Joseph Rouse, and talk with him at length. At the end of the conversation, I asked him to sign my copy of one of his books. For a moment, he looked very puzzled — apparently, philosophers of science do not regularly have fans who ask to have their books signed. Once he got the idea, though, he seemed to relish the opportunity.
A minor point in that book keeps coming back to me. Imagine, if you will, that you and a friend are walking along and happen upon two people who are having an argument.
One is insisting, "Snow is white."
The other insists, "Snow is NOT white."
I don't know why — maybe they're artists, or meteorologists, or, maybe ... zoologists?
Anyway, you and your friend are philospophers of science. You eavesdrop for a while and then get into your own argument.
You insist, "The statement 'snow is white' is true."
Your friend insists, "The statement 'snow is white' is false."
Now ... the question is, what are you two philosophers contributing to this debate that the two orginal debaters could not contribute on their own? Unless you're very much more careful, the answer is: Diddly Squat.
The problem has to do with what philosophers can do for (or do about) science without either becoming scientists on the one hand or, on the other, being totally irrelevent. If you want to debate whether quarks "really exist," or whether scientist's conclusions really follow from the evidence they've gathered, you are likely to repeat the same arguments scientists themselves debate very regularly and with a much better command of the complications involved than philosophers usually enjoy.
Thinking about this deeply left me finally agreeing that science — if well done — is something I ultimately trust to answer its own questions. It also left me feeling that I should leave the question of the value of the philosophy of science to others.