24/02/2022 – María del Rosario Martínez-Ordaz: Ignorance of theoretical structure, scientific understanding, and the solar neutrino problem


Here, I contend that the ignorance associated with heavy technological implementation in physics is ignorance of theoretical structure and I explain how this ignorance relates to the production of specific insights and later on, to further epistemic achievements such as knowledge and understanding.

In order to do so, I proceed in four steps. First, I discuss the challenges associated with overcoming high degrees of ignorance, for different types of theoretical ignorance, in order to gain a deeper understanding of specific phenomena. I focus on those cases in which ignorance causes problems of the kinds of inconsistency and incompleteness. Second, I introduce a case study from neutrino physics: the anomaly in the measuring of the solar neutrino flux (cf. Bahcall and Davis 1976, Pinch 1986, Franklin 2000, Bahcall 2003, Martínez-Ordaz 2020). And I argue that the ignorance that caused the anomaly was ignorance of theoretical structure, significantly linked to heavy technological implementation; I contend that this ignorance limited the grasping of the inference patterns that held within the Standard Solar Model’s predictions and the experimental results, Furthermore, I briefly discuss the questions of when did neutrino physicists start overcoming such ignorance and whether they have ever been in a sufficiently safe epistemic position to understand neutrinos in some significant way. Third, I address these questions and provide the generalities of an inferentialist account of scientific understanding that could be explanatory of the partial overcoming of ignorance of theoretical structure and the further achievement of knowledge and understanding –even if relevant high degrees of ignorance are still present. I illustrate this with the later evolution of the solar neutrino flux anomaly. Finally, I draw some conclusions regarding the bridges that connect ignorance of theoretical structure and scientific understanding in physics.

Biographical information:

María del Rosario Martínez-Ordaz is a postdoctoral fellow at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil​, and a visiting scholar at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland. She received her PhD in Philosophy of Science from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM, in Fall 2019. 

She works mainly in general philosophy of science and philosophical logic. Her interests extend into history of science and (non-classical) logics. Her current research focuses on studying the connections between understanding and the rational use of defective information in science and philosophy. ​

Meeting information:

  • Thursday the 24rd of February, at 15:00 CET (Paris time), at this Zoom link

One thought on “24/02/2022 – María del Rosario Martínez-Ordaz: Ignorance of theoretical structure, scientific understanding, and the solar neutrino problem

  1. Pingback: Seminar starting now | Möbius Seminars

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