Gordon Simons wrote,
For those interested in Boltzmann's situation, you might wish to check out
Yes, that is an excellent web resource!
> Several things seem evident:
> 1. Boltzmann depression was only partially related to difficulties in
> having his ideas accepted. It appears plausible that he was bipolar.
OK, maybe this is me jumping to conclusions, but it
did follow yet another brutal debate (with prior attempts
following similar circumstances). That is a bit unfair
to people who suffer from manic depression. They suffer
from highs and lows, but bipolars don't just decide one day
that it might be a cool thing to jump in from of a train,
or stick their head in a noose (as with Boltzmann's case).
There is usually provocation that is complicated by their
Crack pots are perhaps unfazed by harsh and brutal criticism,
but almost every scientist who is worth something has doubts.
Can you imagine what long sleepless nights, wondering if you're
right or wrong, can do to you after a while? Now add to _that_
a bipolar personality.....
> 2. His radically new ideas were initially met with some strong opposition.
OK, to be fair about this, to the mindset of the late
19th century, his ideas would have been rather unwelcome.
In addition, one must remember that the people who occupy
the "establishment" are often burdened with a lot already,
and they rarely have sufficient time to properly evaluate
unfamiliar and radically different ideas: especially when
a good fraction of the ideas they hear are the work of
However, these are exactly the kinds of things that junior
scientist are rarely aware of, and that is a disservice
to them. They should be warned that if they do not have
the financial resources, the willingness to examine their
ideas ruthlessly, and the time to fight it out to the (often
bitter) end, they may do better to pursue a different route
until they are armed and ready with those prerequisites.
That is a pretty tough reality when you think about it.
> 3. His ideas were eventually vindicated and accepted.
Unfortunately mostly after his (untimely) death...
> While "scientific acceptance" of his views were initially affected "by a
> variety of factors (incl. politics, religion, personality, various
> background beliefs, aesthetic commitments, etc), "scientific knowledge"
> was eventually resolved on the basis of "observations and experiments."
> I should add, that I never asserted that the practice of science is
> apolitical. The practice of science is a human endeavor, and, as such, it
> is influenced by many things including politics. But this reality does not
> establish the source of "scientific knowledge." In the end, scientific
> knowledge is resolved by objective standards: observations and
I do not dispute with you that science does _eventually_ rectify
itself. Religionist can also correct their views although it
seems to take centuries rather than decades. That may be the
fate of being an institution that lives on long after its members
have all expired rather than a lone professor controlling a
prestigious journal or society.
Nevertheless, I did not off hand see Ted's statement as post
modernist. If he had said "the TRUTH is determined by
politics, religious views, culture, egos, etc.," that would
have raised some serious objections from me. As far as I know,
that is not his thinking but Ted must speak for himself.
by Grace we proceed,
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