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EvoText is a new online tool for the philosophy and history of science. EvoText contains a database of hundreds of thousands of science journal articles and allows anyone to use powerful automated analysis tools to produce quantitative information about the nature and history of science. Recent decades have witnessed increased perception that philosophy of science should be in touch with scientific practice. This has occurred alongside the proliferation of the science journal literature. With the number of articles published on a daily basis, it is now all but impossible to closely follow anything but a narrow subfield. But philosophy of science often has the goal of producing broad claims about science. This creates a challenge: How can philosophers of science have a command over a swath of the scientific literature too vast to be able to be read? We have created evoText to help address this challenge.
EvoText allows researchers to perform a wide variety of textual analyses against the journal literature, enabling what has come to be known as “distant reading” against a wide corpus of scientific journal articles. In addition to (not in place of) traditional close readings of the claims that scientists make on a daily basis, we may bolster such claims by offering statistical analyses, showing that the claims we make about science on the basis of a small number of articles may rightly be said to hold of the broader literature in general.
In this presentation, we will offer some recent results from our use of evoText. We will discuss several examples of the kind of benefits that can be drawn from use of textual analysis in the philosophy of science, drawn from our own work in the history and philosophy of biology.