Re: The Flat Earth? - Conclusion

Tony Neilson (
13 Jul 1995 05:59:35 GMT

I can't believe I'm buying into this, but anyway...

In article <3ts3lg$>, (Madhudvisah dasa Swami) writes:
|> (Ian Stewart,F13,732405,) wrote:
|> >From article <3tlpun$>, by (Madhudvisah dasa Swami):
|> >> But the idea is if we can find someone who has perfect knowledge then the
|> >> best way to get knowledge is to hear it from Him...
|> >>
|> >> If you want to find someone's telephone number you could develop an
|> >> elaborate "scientific" method to do it. [descr. of legwork cut]
|> >> ... That is the ascending process of gaining knowledge, the
|> >> scientific method. However there is a much better process, the descending
|> >> process, accepting the knowledge from an authority, from someone who
|> >> knows. You could call the operator or look in the telephone book and find
|> >> the number immediately...
|> >Nice analogy. Let's kick it a bit further. You claim that
|> >scientists don't like 'phone books', that we prefer to find out
|> >the numbers the hard way. Well, you are right, we are a bit leery
|> >of phone books.
|> But nevertheless you have to use them! The scientific method is not really
|> a viable method of finding the numbers. You have to accept an authority,
|> the telephone company...
|> >The reason is that there are so many of them (eg
|> >'Bible', 'Koran', 'Bhaguvad-gita (sp?)', even 'New age'), and the
|> >cockamamie things all give _different_ numbers for the same person!
|> Hey! I thought we were talking about telephone books here. It's the
|> principle of the matter I am concerned with. If you get an authorized
|> telephone book from the telephone company that's certainly the best source
|> of telephone numbers...

Swami, I think you're missing Ian's point entirely here. You have suggested that we
the "best way to get perfect knowledge is to here it from Him" and given the analogy
of a phone book as "perfect knowledge" for finding someone's number. Fair enough.
What Ian is trying to say (and imagine he will reply to this) is... in real life,
when looking for knowledge about "bigger questions" (life, death, our place in the
Universe etc...), WHAT 'telephone book' do you say we should use? There's lots of
'companies' out there providing THEIR answer to our questions (e.g. the books he
mentions. With these competing 'authorised telephone books', it would seem difficult
to arbitrarily accept one as the supreme truth. Therefore scientists tend to be wary
of these 'telephone books', and use the 'scientific method' (however THAT is defined)
to approach answers to questions. Ian is just saying that there is no single
'telephone book' that gives us the answers.

|> >So if scientists are allergic to 'phone books' as a way of
|> >finding out about Nature, it is not because of wrong-headedness
|> >but simply sad experience.
|> They may have misunderstood the books but without them they have no more
|> chance of finding the truth than I have of dialing Bills number without
|> first finding it out from the telephone company. Without the books they
|> are lost.
|> >In fact, a scientist will support
|> >the method which achieves the best results. 'Phone books'
|> >just do not measure up.
|> NONSENSE. I say it again, our Australian Telecom has very nice phone books
|> (but this is starting to sound like a commercial)
Sorry, but the two of you having two different aguements. Ian means 'phone books' to
be any 'authoritative' prescriptive answer to a question, giving the example of
religious books. These have different 'phone numbers' for the same 'person'.
Therefore, why trust these 'phone books'? Find your own 'numbers'!

P.S. I agree with Swami that Telstra (Telecom Australia's new name) has wonderful
phone books (in the literal sense!) - and that IS a commercial!

Dr Tony Neilson, Photonics and Reference Standards Section
Telstra Research Labs
770 Blackburn Rd, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia.
Ph: +61 3 9253 6681 Fax: +61 3 9253 6665 Email:
Standard Disclaimer: These views ain't got nuthin' to do with Telstra...