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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Mar > Mar 31

Re: Defending The Indefensible - Shough

From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul>
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 14:48:50 +0100
Fwd Date: Sat, 31 Mar 2007 08:01:03 -0400
Subject: Re: Defending The Indefensible - Shough


>From: Cathy Reason <CathyM.nul>
>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 13:59:52 +0100
>Subject: Re: Defending The Indefensible

>>From: Cathy Reason <CathyM.nul>
>>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>>Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2007 18:22:07 +0100
>>Subject: Re: Defending The Indefensible

>>>From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul>
>>>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>>>Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2007 17:06:12 +0100
>>>Subject: Re: Defending The Indefensible

<snip>

Hi Cathy

OK you've flushed me out of retirement on this one - but only
briefly, Errol, I promise!

>As I understand it, Martin is acknowledging that scientists, as
>individual human beings, may have unjustified a priori
>assumptions

I'm not weakly acknowledging it, I'm strongly claiming it. The
justified ones will be self-justified by their results, the
unjustified ones will sometimes be specifically rejected but
more generally their status and even their existence will be
simply unknown.

>but that science as a collective process will always
>find these out and test them. I agree that sometimes this will
>happen.

Not always find them out and test them, no. But nobody knows of
any other way to find the justified ones than to make them into
coherent theories, where possible, and test them to see what
happens. The fact that this leaves an unknown number of
incoherent and even unrecognised assumptions embedded in all our
thinking, individually and culturally, presumably going at least
as deep in our natures as anything that we can recognise as
"thought" and probably deeper, is something we all just have to
put up with.

Which among even those untested prejudices we _can_ all detect
within ourselves from time to time are skewing our thoughts in a
potentially useful way, and which not? Some of them are surely
scientifically useful if only we knew how to frame them
properly, but we don't, and we are not helped by some people
(picking up here your "having cakes and eating them") who will
happily cherry-pick scientific results and opinions as authority
for their "cool" prejudices whilst eagerly decrying science and
rationality in the same breath. Most of us can't even tie our
shoes objectively.

>But I'm not at all sure the process is inevitable in the
>way Martin appears to be claiming.

I never intended to give that impression for one moment. Seeing
the future is not what I'm claiming. I agree with you there is
nothing inevitable about it. It is possible that mankind may
never make another significant breakthrough and that the 20thC
will be looked back on nostalgically as the end of a marvellous
but ultimately futile adventure (but I confess my prejudice that
I find this very hard to believe).

>It seems to me in the nature
>of philosophical assumptions, in particular those which are
>shared throughout a culture, that they tend to remain untested
>for a very long time and that they tend to be self-reinforcing.

I agree with that as well.

>It may sometimes be the case that the weight of evidence against
>these assumptions will eventually become so overwhelming as to
>trigger a scientific revolution in the Kuhnian sense. I'm just
>not convinced there's anything inevitable about this process.

I would never claim that there is, but we can only make sensible
extrapolations from past experience. You are strictly speaking
right to object (as you did) that the history of science is
short and that the Kuhnian thesis, based on a limited sample, is
not an unassailable basis for predicting that the future
development of science will have the same episodic structure
into the future. I would turn that around and say that by the
same token you have little basis on which to suggest (as you
did) that the current physical paradigm has remained unreformed
for too long not to be - in spite of its known inconsistencies
and shortcomings - science's last throw of the dice.

>This is the crux of our disagreement, I believe.

And of our agreement apparently :-)

Martin



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