My question is about whether progress in science is solely or mainly a matter of incremental, practical progress or whether the evolution of philosophy and culture has some important hand in it
I want to suggest that deficits of earlier sciences were actually less about physical resources and more about a misappropriation of attention
Perhaps there are two arcs of progress we might identify. One has to do with increasing physical and informational resources. The second has to do with improvements in our insight
Unless I am misunderstanding what you are asking, I think the way you are posing the question may be mis-specified, putting a dichotomy in place where one doesn’t quite exist. Increased physical and information resources lead to an improvement of insight, for instance. Galileo had a way to measure time (a physical resource) and a highly development mathematics (an informational resource) and was able to bring both together to develop an insight into the acceleration of falling bodies with his inclined plane experiments. As a manipulation of antecedent conditions in order to derive explanations of phenomena, scientific insights a la Galileo (essentially the tradition we have now) cannot proceed without physical and informational resources. True, someone like Einstein can come along and reassert that ‘pure science’ is a rational progression of ideas, but his progress was only possible through prior experimental manipulations in the advance of physical knowledge. In effect he was able to retool the “informational resources” in order to derive a new theory of gravity, space and time, but among the scientific community the real proof was in the pudding of the experiments and observations that confirmed—or more specifically failed to reject—his theories. So even where science can remove itself from physical resources in order to develop its conceptual foundations (the informational resources), this development occurs on the back of prior manipulations using both physical and informational resources, as well as under the prospect of testing through other manipulations. In this way, the physical and information resources and potential insight of science are one of apiece—or at least two sides of the same coin. Their arcs converge; each makes the other reciprocally possible.
As for the evolution of philosophy having anything to do with the incremental, practical progress of science, I know of no instance where philosophical knowledge—and by this I mean the native products of philosophical reasoning applied to traditional philosophical problems—has influenced the development of science, even in contemporary philosophy of science. As far as I know, scientists have been content to develop their resources and tools entirely independently of and indifferent to philosophers. So no, philosophy—as far as I know—has had no important hand in the development of science. If anything, the hand has worked in the other direction: science has influenced the development of philosophy, at least the ‘world view’ accomplished by scientific discovery, if not specific scientific discoveries themselves. This is most pronounced in the 20th century, seen for instance in Dewey and Sellars.
I know less about culture and science, but I think it is safe to say that the interests of scientists don’t occur in a cultural vacuum without saying culture influences scientific discoveries. Again, if anything, the influence probably goes the other way. But I wouldn’t hazard anything beyond this guess when it comes to “culture” and “science.”
I will absolutely agree there is no dichotomy. I think most any project we might name has both a stated purpose and some set of resources that might achieve that purpose. Not only is the goal not achievable without both it isn’t even intelligible.
If we can provisionally agree that there is a robust distinction between science and pseudo science and that science is better and that pseudo science has some common deficits that grant it the title I’m just suggesting that the deficits have more to do with intention and less to do with resources. If you will pardon the run on sentence.
As for philosophy… I think that philosophy and science have a fair amount of cross pollination but that isn’t the fundamental nature of their relationship. They mean to represent and organize different kinds of information. Framing them in some kind of competition just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like comparing apples and jet fuel.
I think pseudo-science is more a normative than a descriptive term, at least as it’s often used—as a term of abuse. When it’s used accurately and descriptively—like for intelligent design—I know it when I see it without being able to specify what it is. So yes, I agree there is a robust distinction to be made between science and pseudo-science, but I’ve never been able to formulate for myself what it is beyond saying pseudo-science imitates the form of science without duplicating its substance. In this respect, the intention is to pass itself off as science without actually bearing the burdens scientific methods bear. In this respect, yes, the issue is intent, not resources.
We may disagree more than not about philosophy and science. I think some of the best philosophy has come from taking the methods and accomplishments of science seriously, but I know of no science that has come from taking the methods and accomplishments of philosophers seriously. As far as I can tell, the cross-pollination only goes one way, though admittedly some scientists come across as bad philosophers when they stretch their limits outside of science proper and indulge in philosophical questions. In this respect they could learn a lot from philosophy by doing it better when the urge to do it strikes them (Weinberg comes to mind here), as perhaps at the end of the day it must, if the results of science are to be contextualized in the broader questions of values. Carroll and Deutsch come to mind here as how to do this contextualization well. These latter two seem like natural born philosophers of the best kind, though they are scientists by training…