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Re: [ontolog-forum] rant on pseudoscience

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 2010 19:45:16 -0500
Message-id: <4B58F51C.8080609@xxxxxxxx>
Rob,    (01)

Thanks for the excerpts from Kuhn.  They provide rather more light on 
the subject.    (02)

One passing observation:    (03)

> p.g. 167
> 'The very existence of science depends upon vesting the power to
> choose between paradigms in the members of a special kind of
> community.
>       (04)

I'm not sure that this is the essence of science, but it is certainly 
true that good science owes much to the peer review process.  And Paola 
is correct in her accusation that that process produces both false 
positives and false negatives from time to time.  Any science has its 
fads, and their success inevitably depends on their partial truth and 
their ability to resolve some known problems.  The peer process will 
often reward fad-consistent work, and denigrate "revolutionary" work 
that is inconsistent with the fad.    (05)

At the same time we must realize that every quack thinks himself a 
revolutionary -- this exploder has seen a few examples -- but there are 
hundreds of quacks for every real revolutionary.  The peer process weeds 
out the quacks with high reliability.  In return for preventing the 
cluttering of the literature with the works of 99 goats, we must forgive 
that process for its occasional sacrifice of a lamb.    (06)

As to funding scientific research, the sad fact is that you have to kiss 
a lot of frogs to find a prince.  Some funding managers are better at 
choosing more promising frogs, but the ratio of princes to funded frogs 
is still very low.  Can you really blame them for believing that a fad 
science is the mark of a promising frog, when the majority of the 
council of proven princes tells them so?    (07)

-Ed    (08)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (09)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (010)

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