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From: Kieran Mullen <kieran@phyast.nhn.ou.edu>
Subject: (urth) Re:  Digest urth.v019.n018
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 23:59:19 

>From: m.driussi@genie.com
>Subject: (urth) Science, Her Methods

>Re: Science, scientists, and the Scientific Method.  I thought that
>Science proceeded by way of cutting edge experiments; 


>experiments derived from hyptotheses (by definition based upon

  Hmm.  Latest Nobel prize in physics (fractional quantum Hall effect)
was not based on theoretical predictions, but pushing the experiments
to a different regime of parameters.  The one before (Bose-Einstein
condensation) *was* based on a hypothesis.

> and by definition these experiments are "successful" less
>than one hundred percent of the time.  

  Only if you know what you're looking for ahead of time (i.e. BEC).

>In fact, the failures usually
>=outnumber= the successes.  In any event, it is a =guessing= game.

   I know that failures outnumber successes.  I've had a lot of the
form and few of the latter.  But one skill one has to teach student's
is the proper tweaking of the "bogo-meter":  the ability to tell when
a discussion or hypothesis has gone beyond the evidence.  Feynman,
who was not known for being an orthodox stick-in-the-mud, wrote 
about this as ``playing by the rules of the game''.  To paraphrase
him, You can be as inventive as you want - as long as you play by 
the rules.  

   I admit the rules of discourse are a bit blurry, especially in
literary criticism.  But surely there must be *some* bounds on 

>Am I wrong?  Did all that intellectual labor go out with the

   No, I think my point is that part of the intellectual labor is
being critical.  As you point out, ideas are a dime a dozen.  *Good*
ideas are a bit more dear.  

> Has Science become some sort of orthodoxy of divine

   Of course not.  I'm not sure how this follows logically from the
above discussion.  

>Have scientists become a species of cargo cult,
>waiting for the next Truth to come tumbling out the cornucopia of the
>vast complex?

   This is weird, a complete inverse of how I see the discussion.
I view some of the postings here as "Cargo cult exegesis" since they
follow the *form* of interpreting a work, but don't seem to understand
the standards that apply.  How can a demand for a bit more rigor be
turned into an exhortation to meaningless ritual?

>(Here, let me hook up my 1989 cold fusion reactor to my mid-century
>Dean Drive.  Quick trip to see the canals of Mars.)

   Interesting allusions:  cold fusion and Dean drives both were 
extraordinary claims that required extraordinary proof.  Their 
eventual discrediting is a tribute to rational science and the danger
of not being properly self-critical.  Cold fusion is an especially
interesting case of an "us vs. them" mentality developing in a 
research group.

   Sorry to go on at such length, but the issue of science and 
pseudo-science is one about which I feel strongly.

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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