Darwin-L Message Log 5:22 (January 1994)

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.

<5:22>From GGALE@VAX1.UMKC.EDU  Wed Jan  5 22:09:36 1994

Date: Wed, 05 Jan 1994 22:12:43 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: DARWIN-L digest 111
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

I think I really must put my oar in here, even tho' my point is not only
about the 'margins', it's on the margins.
It's quite easy to argue that significant discoveries have been made by
workers on the margin of the field in which they made the discovery. However,
[and this is an important "however"] the typical case involves someone who
is NOT marginal in some OTHER field. Thus, at least in the past, it has
been possible for physicists to make discoveries in biology (Pasteur, for
example), accountants to make discoveries in chemistry (Lavoisier, for
example--note slight cheeky-tongueness here, please), mathematicians to
make discoveries in cosmology (Milne, for example) and bicycle engineers
to make discoveries in aeronautics.
In _Theory of Science_ I argue that being a card-carrying member of a
paradigmatic guild tends to blind one to non-paradigmatic experiences in
guild-sanctioned phenomena. Note I say "tends" here. Exceptions, and
interesting ones at that, exist. But the tendency is real. After all, what
the hell use is an expensive scientific education if you can't see the
world as your fellow guild-members do?
BTW, my office shares a wall with the guy who did the startup on the
Wegener industry. I might be sick and tired by now of all the stories of
Al on the Ice Floes of Greenland, but I'm still alert enough to be wary of
bandyings-about of his name. His case is lusciously complex, and doesn't
adequately compress and simplify to the uses it's so often put. Maybe we
ought all be leery of using The Wegener Case in anything less than a
three-screensfull analysis...  But this is just an idiosyncratic notion of
mine, and no one else need pay attention; nor most likely will they!

Interesting discussion. Why, tho', is it so hard for the Truth--in linguistics
or anyplace else--to be as sexy as the False??

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