That’s the way to do it!

The eighth in our series on this year’s group projects by Sci Com students . This week we take a light-hearted look at the history of the philosophy of science with Dharshani Weerasekera, Geneviève Le Visage and Kelly Oakes.

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This year is the 350th anniversary of Mr Punch. To celebrate this occasion, we thought it fitting to invite him to participate in our group project. The traditional Punch and Judy show lends itself well to satire and entertainment. In a short live performance we have attempted to portray, in a light-hearted way, how the scientific method has been perceived, fought over and changed through the ages, as Punch challenges Bacon, Popper and Kuhn in his own inimitable way. We used advice from expert practitioners (from both philosophy of science and street performance) to convey facts about philosophy while keeping as close as possible to the original format.

Introduction 

Bottler: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen

Punch (from the back): No! Boys and girls!

Bottler: Welcome to our show! Our aim is to present to you an entertaining history of the philosophy of science but in our own special way. To do that we have asked Mr Punch to help us.

Punch (from the back): That’s me

Bottler: But there’s no Judy I’m afraid, because there were no women philosophers of science. Remember: Mr Punch always needs a bit of help from the audience, …and please, enjoy yourselves!

Punch

Scene 1

Punch is on stage, with a test tube

Punch: Hello! Doing science, I am. Never done that before, So I thought I’d give it a go.  Got the lab coat, got the gloves. That’s a test tube, isn’t? What’s inside it? What will happen if I shake it?

Punch shakes the test tube, screams and then throws it down, goes underneath and comes back with a baby.

Punch: A baby! A test-tube baby for Punch! It’s a good thing Judy is not around. Coos 

I like doing this science – but have I done it the right way? Can someone help?

A baby!

Scene 2

Bacon comes from the back

Bacon: How now, my good sir, thy countenance is pale. What ails thee?

Punch: Who the hell are you?

Bacon: Sir Francis Bacon.

Punch: Did I get my science right?

Bacon: Nay Master Punch. Our natural philosophies are better served by my method of INDUCTION. ‘Tis nought but dangerous dogma to do otherwise.

Punch: In duck what? What do you put in your duck? A dangerous dog? I don’t like the sound of that!

Bacon: IN-DUC-TION. Mr Punch,is to observeth in a goodly manner, then lo and behold: we deduce a theory from our observations! To see or not to see, therein lies the question.

Punch: Sounds simple! Shall we try?

Bacon: Delighted, my good Sir. 

White swans start appearing at the back of the booth. 

Bacon: A swan, Mr Punch! What colour is it?

Punch: White!

Bacon: Another swan, Mr Punch! What colour is it?

Punch: White!

Bacon: Yet another swan, Mr Punch! What colour is it?

Punch: White!

Bacon: Herein is my theory: ‘all swans are whi….’

Bacon starts turning round back to the audience, when a black swan comes up behind. He turns round quickly while the swan disappears and asks the audience. 

Punch and audience: Look behind you!

Bacon: Did mine eyes deceive me? This swan was not black, was it?

Punch and audience: Oh yes it was!

Bacon: Oh no it wasn’t!

Black swan comes up again, Punch start shouting at Bacon and chases him off stage

Bacon: Uncouth knave!

Punch: So much for Induction! That’s the Bacon method? Give me sausages any time. Observations, observation… sometimes when I observe ducks, I see rabbits any way. And sometimes when I observe rabbits, I see ducks. But I still don’t know what the best method is…

Francis Bacon

Scene 3

Popper enters ponderously (with a loud pop, of course).

Punch: Who are you?

Popper: I’m Karl Popper.

Punch: Can you help me with that scientific method palaver?

Popper: Ja. Falsification.

Punch: Falsi what?

Popper: Falsification. A good theory is one that can be proven to be wrong – it can be refuted!

Punch: But I like my theory, it’s my baby, I don’t want to refffffffffffute it!

Popper: But no matter how much you love your theory, you must test it! How else will you know if it is science or pseudoscience?

Punch: Pseudo-what? What are you calling me? And leave my theory alone!

Popper goes to wrestle the baby from Punch, Punch escapes, they have a bit of a run-around.

Popper: Let’s test!

Punch: No!

Popper: Let’s falsify!

Punch: No!

Popper: Let’s refute!

Punch: No!

Popper: Let’s corroborate!

Punch: No! Pop off, Professor Popper, I don’t like your methods.

Popper goes off, mumbling about scientists always wanting to do what they prefer.

Karl Popper

Scene 4

Punch is on stage, still looking at the baby and complaining about induction and falsification, and asking the audience for help. Kuhn pops his paradigm stick from behind the curtain then appears completely. He stays behind Punch wielding the stick. Audience to shout ‘It’s behind you!’. Punch is startled.

Punch: Oh! What a surprise! Who are you?

Kuhn: Thomas Kuhn. I bring you the scientific revolution.

Punch: Revolution? That’s messy, isn’t it? Oh I like it! Tell me more…

Kuhn: Well, every now and then when science gets boring, you need to apply the paradigm stick…

Kuhn waves the stick around to ‘star wars Jedi warrior’ sounds

Kuhn: One hit of the paradigm stick and hop, the way of doing science changes. All the little things that did not make sense suddenly make sense! Thanks to those revolutionaries, the Galileo, Einstein…

Punch: And me? Can I be a revolutionary too? I like being a troublemaker!

Kuhn: Why not? It takes someone like you to challenge what is done.

Punch: I like this way of doing science! Let’s have a revolution!

Punch throws baby out 

Punch: And I like sticks, I’ll get mine!

Punch gets his stick. He starts a fight with Kuhn.

Thomas Kuhn

Scene 5

Popper pops up in the middle of the fight 

Popper: Stop it you two – you’re making a mockery of the scientific method.

Both Punch and Kuhn turns to him and start hitting him, he disappears.

Popper pops again:

Popper: Mr Kuhn, too many people have read your book! That’s not what should happen to scientific books!

Kuhn: Yes, they do like my paradigm stick!

He gets hit by Kuhn

He pops up again:

Popper: Punch, you don’t understand at all how to do science!

Punch: You philosophers just confuse me!

He gets hit by Punch

Social Constructivist Crocodile

Scene 6

The fight between Punch and Kuhn continues, but they get tired. While they fight, a crocodile creeps from right, and one from the left. They slow down then stop fighting.

Punch: Hey, crocodiles…

Kuhn: Oh no! the social constructivists are out to get us!

Back curtain goes up, puppeteers are exposed

Bottler: Well, it was all a construction anyway

Punch (with emphasis): That’s the way to do it!

END – All take a bow.

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Dharshani Weerasekera, Geneviève Le Visage and Kelly Oakes are all currently studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College, London.

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