The Appliance of Science

In preparation for teaching, I was reading about the ‘science wars’ that some speak about from 15 years or so back.  It arose when Sokal published an article in a social science journal that was a fraud, prompting debates about the lack of rigour in social sciences.  This brought to mind the current turmoil in the science world caused by the ‘discovery’ that some sub-atomic particles appear to be able to travel faster than the speed of light.  In one sense, the response of the scientists in Geneva has been to their credit.  They have opened access to their data and asked their peers to check it and to be proved wrong.  But this reflects something else too – a good degree of nervousness.  If the data is accurate, then scientists must revisit many of their assumptions.  In Khun’s terms, we would be facing a paradigm shift.  You would think this would be exciting but, instead, it seems to fill scientists with dread.  It can’t be true.  One has offered to eat his shorts if it is true.

So much for the rational world of ‘hard’ natural science!!


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