Re: Pasteur and nature of science

Date: Wed Jan 02 2002 - 11:11:16 EST

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    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
    crackpots anyway.

    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
    > experiments.

    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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