As I'm presently writing something about instrumentalism - I've recently decided that it's still a respectable position when suitably moderated, and deserves reincarnation, in my latest phase of madness - I decided to have a closer look at the figures on anti-realism in the Philpapers survey.
I spotted some interesting differences, which I thought I'd share:
Of professional philosophers with an AOS 'Philosophy of Physical Science', 1.6% (1!) accepted anti-realism and 4.9% leaned towards it.
Of those with an AOS 'Philosophy of Biology', by contrast, 10.5% accepted scientific anti-realism and 10.5% leaned towards it.
And rather surprisingly, I think, no-one with an AOS 'Philosophy of Social Sciences' fully accepted anti-realism. (Less surprisingly, given the likelihood of crossover from fashionable anti-realist stances in certain areas of social science, e.g. sociology, 23.8% leaned towards it.)
So is there an underlying difference between physics and biology (or at least the perception thereof)? My first knee-jerk reaction is that complexity may have something to do with this, perhaps because of the areas of physics which philosophers of physics - quite contingently - happen to be interested in. (I suppose some might be interested in, say, condensed matter physics of biological systems. But I haven't met any on my travels! There are, of course, some significant methodological differences, e.g. in the way modelling and particuarly idealisation is considered, but I've written about those elsewhere. Suffice it to mention systems biology as a reaction to a peculiar view on the limitations of perceived approaches in the physical sciences.)
And why, oh why, are fewer philosophers of social sciences than philosophers of biology willing to go all the way and accept anti-realism if complexity is the issue?
Are there better explanations for all this, taking the stats at face value?