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Darwin-L Message Log 2:152 (October 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<2:152>From ahouse@hydra.rose.brandeis.edu  Fri Oct 29 13:34:07 1993

Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1993 14:39:31 -0400
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: ahouse@hydra.rose.brandeis.edu (Jeremy John Ahouse)
Subject: Re: scientific and popular explanation

>In message <9310290133.AA20510@relay2.geis.com>  writes:
>> difference between scientific and popular explanation."
>>  ---------
>>  Could someone expand on this; it seems to propose that the rigor in
>> testability and measurement somewhat determines the type of explanation.
>> However, how can the definition of theory itself allow for such a domain?
>>  If would help to characterize this issue of difference in information or
>> systematics terms?
>>
>Although I introduced the dichotomy, I was quoting someone else. Since the
>review also mentioned popular "explanations" such as those of Van Daniken, I
>would hazard to suggest that scientific explanations are to be held to more
>rigorous standards in considering a broader range of multidisciplinary data.
>Popular explanations appear to be acceptable if they are merely consistent
>with the evidence under immediate considerations and without deeper thought.
>Scientific explanations must be extended and tested further. Perhaps the
>simplest contrast comes from supermarket tabloids where some readers appear
>perfectly happy to accept an explanation one day (UFO's come from Mars; Elvis
>is still alive) that directly contradicts headlines of the previous week
>(UFO's are vehicles of angels; Elvis' ghost was seen in outer space by
>Pioneer). Clearly this difference-- this lack of concern with the broadest
>possible range of pertinent data-- removes "popular explanation" from real
>science.
>
>JOHN H. LANGDON      email LANGDON@GANDLF.UINDY.EDU
>DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY    FAX  (317) 788-3569
>UNIVERSITY OF INDIANAPOLIS   PHONE (317) 788-3447
>INDIANAPOLIS, IN 46227

    This is an interesting point especially the phrase "Popular
explanations appear to be acceptable if they are merely consistent with the
evidence under immediate considerations..."  We make a lot out of the
notion of subdomains/subdisciplines that are incommensurable and whose
domains don't overlap, I even saw a note recently by someone who was
accused of synesthesia (wanting to make analogous arguments in a new field
but unable to map all of the "nouns" between the 2 domains).  So practice
seems to be flanked by an insistence on including more than the evidence
under immediate consideration on the one side and subdiscipline borders on
the other.

    thoughts?

    - Jeremy

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