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Re: [ontolog-forum] rant on pseudoscience

To: edbark@xxxxxxxx, "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Rob Freeman <lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 22 Jan 2010 15:34:00 +1300
Message-id: <7616afbc1001211834v6463a9d1ye00284e4672ad50f@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Hi Ed,    (01)

On Fri, Jan 22, 2010 at 1:45 PM, Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Rob,
> Thanks for the excerpts from Kuhn.  They provide rather more light on
> the subject.
> One passing observation:
>> 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.
> 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.    (02)

I don't think Kuhn excludes all the traditional criteria like
observation, prediction, and measurement, but by focusing on the idea
that, in a world where knowledge can only be partially summarized, to
get anything done a group needs to agree about something, he is
attempting to highlight something new and important.    (03)

Other quotes with particular relevance to this transition from
squabbling "schools" to the more productive elaboration of ideas we
associate with "science" include:    (04)

p.g. 13
"...anyone examining a survey of physical optics before Newton may
well conclude that, though the field's practitioners were scientists,
the net result of their activity was something less than science.
Being able to take no common body of belief for granted, each writer
on physical optics felt forced to build his field anew from its
foundations. In doing so, his choice of supporting observations and
experiment was relatively free, for there was no standard set of
methods or phenomena that every optical writer felt forced to employ
and explain. Under these circumstances, the dialogue of the resulting
books was often directed as much to the members of other schools as it
was to nature."    (05)

p.g. 15-16
"No natural history can be interpreted in the absence of at least some
implicit body of intertwined theoretical and methodological belief
that permits selection, evaluation, and criticism."    (06)

p.g. 22
"Except with the advantage of hindsight, it is hard to find another
criterion that so clearly proclaims a field a science." (re. the
achievement of a paradigm.)    (07)

> 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.
> 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?    (08)

Indeed. Here are some quotes on the _usefulness_ of resistance to change:    (09)

p.g. 65
"By ensuring that the paradigm will not be too easily surrendered,
resistance guarantees that scientists will not be lightly distracted
and that the anomalies that lead to paradigm change will penetrate
existing knowledge to the core. The very fact that a significant
scientific novelty so often emerges simultaneously from several
laboratories is an index both of the strongly traditional nature of
normal science and to the completeness with which that traditional
pursuit prepares the way for its own change."    (010)

p.g. 151-152
'Lifelong resistance, particularly from those whose productive careers
have committed them to an older tradition of normal science, is not a
violation of scientific standards but an index to he nature of
scientific research itself. The source of resistance is the assurance
that the older paradigm will ultimately solve all its problems, that
nature can be shoved into the box the paradigm provides. Inevitably,
at times of revolution, that assurance seems stubborn and pigheaded as
indeed it sometimes becomes. But it is also something more. That same
assurance is what makes normal or puzzle-solving science possible. And
it is only through normal science that the professional community of
scientists succeeds, first, in exploiting the potential scope and
precision of the older paradigm and, then, in isolating difficulty
through the study of which a new paradigm may emerge.'    (011)

p.g. 158
'The man who embraces a new paradigm at an early stage must often do
so in defiance of the evidence provided by problem-solving. He must,
that is, have faith that the new paradigm will
succeed with the many large problem that confront it, knowing only
that the older paradigm has failed with a few. A decision of that kind
can only be made on faith.'    (012)

p.g. 159
'Though the historian can always find men--Priestley, for
instance--who were unreasonable to resist for as long as they did, he
will not find a point at which resistance becomes illogical or
unscientific. At most he may wish to say that the man who continues to
resist after his whole profession has been converted has ipso facto
ceased to be a scientist.'    (013)

-Rob    (014)

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