Re: Science Saturday: A Plan to Dye One's Whiskers Green (John Horgan & David Deutsch)
I'm reading Kuhn's "The Copernican Revolution" right now which tells the story of heliocentric astronomy. The impression I got was that the split between prediction and understanding went way back. The Ptolemaic theory had a lot of mathematical elaboration built up to reconcile with observation (some of those observations being substantially less accurate than Tycho Brahe's later, anti-heliocentric, work). Many astronomers had basically given up on cosmology and were just doing math. That's part of what made Copernicus' theory initially acceptable, because many could accept it as a better way of doing the math without thinking it meant they had to accept it as a theory of how things actually work. And it was Protestants who initially objected, since they believed in the inerrant truth of the Bible rather than the layers of interpretation Catholic scholastics had layered on. Copernicus himself dedicated his book to the pope, and did his work because the Church asked him to reform their calendar. It was churchmen who had the opportunity to pursue learning anyway. It took a while for the implications of Copernicanism to cause a serious backlash from the Catholic church during the Counter-Reformation, by which time enough advances had been made that Copernicanism was sure to dominate astronomy.
David's objection to John's prediction of arms races seemed off to me. In evolutionary biology there is a concept of an "arms race" that doesn't depend on both entities having weapons. A race in which one side develops biological weapons and the other develops antidotes would still be an "arms race" in that sense.
Last edited by T.G.G.P; 09-24-2011 at 03:33 PM..