Re: Bipedalism and theorizing... was Re: Morgan and creationists

Paul Crowley (
Sun, 30 Jun 96 10:58:27 GMT

In article <4qp2ii$> "david l burkhead" writes:

> In article <> wrote:

> >Take any revolution in any field of knowledge - one where the basic
> >textbooks had to be re-written - and you will see its truth. Why do
> >you find it so hard to accept? None of us finds it easy to have to
> >change our minds from what we learnt at school or college.
> "Why do [I] find it so hard to accept?" Because it's wrong, plain
> and simple. You keep making this same assertion and it's as wrong now
> as when you first made it.

Unusually (and maybe ironically) I'm putting forward the orthodox
position, and you (the ultimate" ortho") are denying it. Kuhn's
"Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is a standard text on almost
all science courses. You clearly haven't read it. I'm virtually
quoting it at you. It's basic message is that Max Planck was right
when he wrote: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing
its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its
opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is
familiar with it."

Since the book was published in 1962 the soundness of his thesis has
been shown in numerous cases, "continental drift" and the extra-
terrestial impact theory of extinctions being the most conspicuous.

That such a great book has been generally accepted gives one some
slight hope for academia, although it's almost invariably badly taught
with most lecturers finding the historical lesson "boring" (the lesson
that you have failed to absorb); so most students never grasp its
importance; they pick up a largely fallacious but more fashionable
point about truth being "relative".

> Sure, there are geologists who don't accept the impact
> hypothesis. That's because the issue hasn't been settled yet.

There was an article in Nature about 6 weeks ago that was regarded as
its final proof -- of course, almost all non-specialists accepted it
years ago.

> A couple of die-hard holdouts is hardly evidence of any great
> resistance to new ideas in the professional community.

Kuhn's book revolutionised the standard conception as to how ideas
change in scientific communities -- in 1962. You're 34 years out-

> And, BTW, that
> someone should object to ice ages at a time before compelling evidence
> had been accumulated, regardless of how much respect someone else
> might have had for him, is no great surprise.

The point is that the evidence for ice ages is all around us. Darwin
spent the summer of 1831 investigating the geology of the Clwyd valley
(where I am now) with his Geology professor. Darwin accepted Agassiz's
theory as soon as he heard it (sometime around 1845). Almost every
rock in this valley shows glacial markings. Darwin said that not seeing
those markings in 1831 was like investigating a burnt down house and not
noticing any trace of fire. However, the professor never accepted the
theory. The evidence is almost always there. It's whether or not you
have the eyes to see it.

> >Encyclopedia Brittanica (1964). Vol 8, p 96: "In 1896 he entered
> >the Swiss Federal Polytechnic school in Zurich to be trained as a
> >teacher in physics and mathematics. He did not find the instruction

> >Can we please have a withdrawal of "his degree was in physics from
> >one of the most prestigious universities in Europe at the time".
> Why should I when your own quote establishes it? A degree in
> physics and mathematics (this was before "education" degrees--training
> to teach a science consisted of training in the science), from one of
> the most prestigious Universities in Europe.

He got a teaching diploma (just), and the Swiss Federal Polytechnic
School was not a prestigious institution.

> So he got his degree, couldn't find a teaching job (which says
> nothing about his academic credentials but much about the demand for
> folk in academic positions at that time), went to work elsewhere, and
> applied his physics training to "hobby projects" in his spare time (of
> which he had much). Your point is?

His academic credentials were poor. He barely scraped the exams. He
was only one of his class who couldn't get a teaching job. His
Physics professor told him "You are a smart boy, Einstein, a very
smart boy. But you have one great fault: you do not let yourself be
told anything". My points are: (a) to deny what you asserted and
(b) the general nature of those who do make break scientific molds.
They are iconoclastic; they don't fit in; they're rarely popular;
they don't slot into the image you approve.

> >very inspiring and occupied himself mostly with the reading of the
> >works of Boltzmann, Maxwell, Helmholtz, Hertz, and Kirchoff. In
> Well, gee, I read the professional literature too. I guess that
> means I'm _not_ trained in physics.

Yes, you're *trained*. It's the right word. You'll never break
any moulds. Your mind is well set into the tracks. OTOH a high
proportion of guys like Einstein (e.g. many Nobel prize winners) were
*not* trained. They were self-taught. Feynman was a good example.
Alvarez was another. They *have* to be self-taught because who is
going to teach them? If they are "well-trained" in the standard view,
they'll never be in a position to adopt a completely different one.

> BTW, if he _hadn't_ had the training in physics and mathematics
> it's highly unlikely he would have been able to understand those
> papers.

Einstein was ahead of his Physics teachers before he started receiving
instruction from them. He *had* to be.

> Copernicus may be "universally recognized" for something in the
> popular mind, but that doesn't mean he contributed anything of value
> to the scientific community.

This is an utterly fatuous statement. You'll find no backing from any

I agree with Peter Gooding; you're into Jesuitical semantics. In
effect, you're saying that no revolutions in knowledge have ever
occurred because in all cases the theory as originally proposed had
something wrong with it. It only became a proper "scientific" theory
much later when the ordinary scientists accepted it in its full-blown
form, and that acceptance was made at the proper time in the normal
course of scientific verification by our perfectly rational scientists
who, of course, never have private or career axes to grind --- all of
which is baloney. It would appear to come from some semi-religious
belief in the unimpeachable integrity of all scientists.