Darwin-L Message Log 5:50 (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.

<5:50>From PLHILL@Augustana.edu  Mon Jan 10 14:32:55 1994

From: PLHILL@Augustana.edu
Organization:  Augustana College - Rock Island IL
To: <darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu>
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 1994 14:34:57 GMT-500
Subject: parsimony

    Finn Rasmussen claims that parsimonious hypotheses must also be
the least fantastic.  This is clearly a mistake.  Copernicus'
geokinetic universe was arguably (not certainly) more parsimonious
than its geostatic competitors.  It was also far more fantastic in
its implications, chiefly in the physics of motion.  One can easily
imagine circumstances in which belief in ghosts would afford the most
parsimonious explanation of various puzzling phenomena.  The
hypothesis might still be rejected precisely because it is fantastic,
meaning (roughly) that it is so difficult to integrate with the rest
of what we believe.
    Rasmussen is also wrong about the Church's attitude toward
geocentrism.  It did not prefer this theory because its "centrism"
mirrored Church structures.  Copernicus was also a centrist, a solar
centrist, and that would have done just as well so far as theocratic
politics was concerned.  Even if this had been the Church's
motivation, why does Rasmussen think this would make the alternative
"unscientific" or (much more absurdly) "dangerous?"  There is no
obvious reason why political and/or religious analogies should always
be useless to science.

David K. Hill
Augustana College
Rock Island, IL

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