Dirac's Prediction of the Positron: A Case Study for the Current Realism Debate

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Perspectives on Science, ISSN: 1063-6145, Vol: 20, Issue: 4, Page: 440-475

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Pashby, Thomas
MIT Press - Journals; MIT Press
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Much debate has ensued regarding the challenge to scientific realism provided by consideration of certain problematic episodes of theory change in the history of science. This paper contends that there is an interesting case which has been overlooked in this debate, namely the prediction of the positron by Dirac from his 'hole' theory, and its subsequent replacement by a theory which failed to contain a central, and essential, theoretical posit: the 'Dirac sea' of negative energy electrons. Accounting for this case with the 'divide and conquer' strategy of contemporary scientific realism proves particularly troublesome, even for the structural realist. © 2012 by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.