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Sticks
2004-Aug-30, 07:58 AM
Second attempt at posting after the board went down last night just as I pressed submit #-o

After looking at a thread (now locked) I wondered at just how much of the pursuits people did in history that we now class as psudo science or woo-woo stuff today, eventually metamorphosed in to the scientific disciplines we have today.

This happened only when the superstitious elements were junked by some vissionary (for the examples below if you know who they were that would be interesting)

This examples I can think of are

Astrology gave rise to Astronomy

Alchemy gave rise to Chemistry

Herbalism gave rise, sort of, to Pharmacy and contributed to modern medicine having said that we do seem to have come full circle on this as science now says why certain herbs such as sage, garlic, St John's Wort have beneficial theaputic properties. I quite like the idea of legaly growing my own pharmacy in pots on the window sill :D

Any others anyone can think of

I was wondering about the origin of the scientific method - Was it Sir Francis Bacon who formulated this. :-?

A Thousand Pardons
2004-Aug-30, 08:02 AM
Economics gave rise to Economics, and vice versa. :)

PhantomWolf
2004-Aug-30, 08:17 AM
Well if you look at medicine. They are back to using leeches. ;)

Humphrey
2004-Aug-30, 01:43 PM
Sticks: We talked about this before, but it doesnt hurt to be careful. If you are going to grow your own herbs, dont go just on what the infomercials tell you. Do your own reaserch on them. Especially the side effects.

I can't remeber which one, but its known to cancel the effects of the birth control pill. And its a common one.

Sticks
2004-Aug-30, 01:50 PM
I can't remeber which one, but its known to cancel the effects of the birth control pill. And its a common one.

Being male, I should be ok with that herb then

Actually I tend to be a bit of a brown thumb :oops:

The herbs I would like to grow, had I the room in my flat in a tower block would be garlic, rosemary, thyme and sage. (mostly for the kitchen)

ToSeek
2004-Aug-30, 02:04 PM
I can't find verification of this to hand, but I read once that there was a folk belief that red light helped in the treatment of tuberculosis. This was dismissed by mainstream medicine until someone actually did a study and found that it did indeed help.

Humphrey
2004-Aug-30, 03:12 PM
I can't remeber which one, but its known to cancel the effects of the birth control pill. And its a common one.

Being male, I should be ok with that herb then

Actually I tend to be a bit of a brown thumb :oops:

The herbs I would like to grow, had I the room in my flat in a tower block would be garlic, rosemary, thyme and sage. (mostly for the kitchen)

Ahh... Never mind then. :-D

Yah someday i would like to grow cooking herbs too. :-)

russ_watters
2004-Aug-30, 08:06 PM
... I wondered at just how much of the pursuits people did in history that we now class as psudo science or woo-woo stuff today, eventually metamorphosed in to the scientific disciplines we have today.

This happened only when the superstitious elements were junked by some vissionary (for the examples below if you know who they were that would be interesting)

This examples I can think of are

Astrology gave rise to Astronomy

Alchemy gave rise to Chemistry

Herbalism gave rise, sort of, to Pharmacy and contributed to modern medicine ... Those are entire fields that before science existed, obviously could not be scientific. Once the scientific method came into use, chemistry and astronomy quickly morphed from their unscientific predicessors (though astrology is still alive and kicking).

Since the inception of the scientific method, I can't think of a single large mainstream theoy that was junked or mystical idea that became scientific. I tend to think the scientific method itself precludes that.

Also, there are a lot of incorrect urban legends out there that give some people the wrong idea. Things like the idea that Einstein was a crackpot or that scientists didn't think the sound barrier was breakable give hope to crackpots but are just plain not true.

Avatar28
2004-Aug-30, 08:15 PM
Here's a slightly different approach:

What, in our history, was once considered to be woowoo and has since become scientifically accepted. Once example might be the herbal medicines mentioned earlier. A lot of them were considered woowoo, but once they were examined, they were found that they actually DO have medicinal properties in many cases.

Eta C
2004-Aug-30, 08:30 PM
Pharmacology has always realized that many "traditional" herbal remedies are valid and has used them as the basis to synthesize drugs. Digitalis (from the foxglove) and aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid (from salicylic aspirin in willow bark) come to mind. What remains "woo woo" is the concept that the "natural" versions are somehow better for you than the synthesized ones. Never mind that salicylic acid ate away at your stomach while it eased pain. Aspirin didn't become the drug it is today until it's corrosiveness was reduced (even now, it causes some people problems). There's a lot of other stuff mixed into the herb, and who knows what effects happen.

Then again, I'll eat my hat if traditional remedies like the gall bladder of bear, or ground rhino horn ever prove to have any value whatsoever. Sometimes woowoo stays woowoo

iprayforwhirledpeas
2004-Aug-30, 09:42 PM
Speaking about Pharmacology...

For example, foxglove (digitalis) is a plant. And it's a heart medication. (CAUTION: DO NOT GROW YOUR OWN!!!!)

Being an herb-grower, I can tell you that the age of the plant, how it was prepared (dried, etc), how long it's been stored, how it was stored (airtight? humidity, temp, in the light or out, etc), and other factors all must be taken into account. What makes modern medicine so great is that during processing those variables are monitored with much more reliable equipment than your average granny keeps in the closet, so the medicine is overall uniform.

As someone above mentioned, of what use is willowbark tea if you're swigging down cherry-bark-flavored milk for the mass of ulcers in your stomach?

But that wasn't what I was going to say.

As for definition...

What really is "pharmacology"? How is it defined, when was it recognized as a science? From Alchemy to Chemistry (speaking of change), most science grew out of what today is bunk.

And as for woowoo being later accepted as fact, how about germs? Or DNA?

Just a few thoughts! :wink:

Richard of Chelmsford
2004-Aug-30, 10:03 PM
Well if you look at medicine. They are back to using leeches. ;)

I was going to say that!

jrkeller
2004-Aug-30, 10:42 PM
Well if you look at medicine. They are back to using leeches. ;)

I was going to say that!


but they are being used in a completely different way.

Brady Yoon
2004-Aug-30, 10:50 PM
Well, we once thought that the Earth was at the center of the universe, and look at how wrong that was. That shows that even really strange ideas should be given consideration (assuming that it's backed up by proof)

01101001
2004-Aug-30, 11:37 PM
As someone above mentioned, of what use is willowbark tea if you're swigging down cherry-bark-flavored milk for the mass of ulcers in your stomach?
Speaking of ulcers, how about the fairly recent case of the doctors Warren and Marshall, who convinced the world that most gastric ulcers weren't the result of stress and bad diet, but of an infection by the Helicobacter pylori bacterium?

From a Sydney Morning Herald article (http://www.vianet.net.au/~bjmrshll/features2.html):


In the early 1980s, Warren, a pathologist at Royal Perth Hospital, had become resigned to unkind jokes from his peers about his theory that an unusual bug he was seeing down his microscope had some role in causing stomach inflammation. No-one had taken much notice because it was such an outlandish notion. Everyone knew that bacteria couldn't survive in the stomach's acid environment. They'd been taught so at medical school. [...] The establishment was difficult to persuade - everyone accepted that ulcers were caused by acid, stress, spicy foods, and should be treated by drugs blocking acid production. This led to Marshall's rather dramatic decision to swallow a solution containing the bug to prove it caused disease. About a week later, he started vomiting and suffering other painful symptoms of gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach, which is now recognised as being caused by H pylori.
Do some wild ideas become part of the mainstream? Sure.

Is that evidence that any particular wild idea should become part of the mainstream? No at all.

Warren and Marshall did the science. They provided reproducible evidence that their ideas were accurate.

If one wants a woo-woo idea to enter the mainstream, one must do the science.

FP
2004-Aug-31, 12:44 AM
Actually, I use that story in my practice all the time. I can tell that my patients really don't believe that a doctor would do such a thing.

I just say "That was when doctors were scientists and not pill pushers."

beskeptical
2004-Aug-31, 07:12 AM
I can't find verification of this to hand, but I read once that there was a folk belief that red light helped in the treatment of tuberculosis. This was dismissed by mainstream medicine until someone actually did a study and found that it did indeed help.Say what?

I think you are confusing 'red' with ultraviolet light. UV light kills TB bacteria in the environment. It doesn't do anything for the sick person.

beskeptical
2004-Aug-31, 07:14 AM
Actually, I use that story in my practice all the time. I can tell that my patients really don't believe that a doctor would do such a thing.

I just say "That was when doctors were scientists and not pill pushers."I don't get it?

TriangleMan
2004-Aug-31, 10:38 AM
Well if you look at medicine. They are back to using leeches. ;)
As soon as I read this I remembered that some doctors are now treating infected wounds with maggots, which do a great job of eating the dead infected tissue and leaving the healthy tissue alone.

FP
2004-Aug-31, 01:03 PM
Beskep, it's a joke (not a great one, true.)

I mean, would you drink a culture of Helicobacter pylori?

ToSeek
2004-Aug-31, 01:57 PM
I can't find verification of this to hand, but I read once that there was a folk belief that red light helped in the treatment of tuberculosis. This was dismissed by mainstream medicine until someone actually did a study and found that it did indeed help.Say what?

I think you are confusing 'red' with ultraviolet light. UV light kills TB bacteria in the environment. It doesn't do anything for the sick person.

My memory failed me. Apparently, it's smallpox (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dm79sp.html), not TB, though I still can't find any reliable support for it actually working.

Gmann
2004-Aug-31, 01:59 PM
As soon as I read this I remembered that some doctors are now treating infected wounds with maggots, which do a great job of eating the dead infected tissue and leaving the healthy tissue alone.

Maggot therapy is not a new concept. I recall reading about it in an Army Field Manual 12 years ago. Although I do not recall the publication number, or it's publication date. It dealt with survival. To paraphrase it's content..."Expose the wound to flies. Cover the wound as soon as maggots appear. Check the wound frequently until dark red bleeding occurs, then flush with distilled water, or fresh urine" Before anyone says it, I will say it for you...ewww :o I fail to see the connection between the two "liquids" mentioned, but there must be a reason, otherwise it would not have been published.

I think of the distinction between woo woo and mainstream science this way... woo^2 comes to a conclusion, and then pursues "facts" to back up the conclusion. Mainstream science makes initial observations, formulates a theory, collects data, analyizes the data, decides if the data supports the theory, and then comes to some kind of conclusion which is usually one of the two between; A. The hypothesis was supported by... Or B. The hypothesis wa not supported, therefore we are going back to the old drawing board.

My litmus test to determine if someone is a woo woo or not is simple, If they have a definitive answer for any question, regardless of whether it has anything to do with their area of expertise, they become a woo woo. If you ask a question to a real Scientist, and he/she has the guts to say "I don't know" then he/she is probably not a woo woo.

russ_watters
2004-Aug-31, 03:09 PM
Well, we once thought that the Earth was at the center of the universe, and look at how wrong that was. That shows that even really strange ideas should be given consideration (assuming that it's backed up by proof) But that falls into the category I listed, of things that were never actually considered by scientists to be valid. That was always a religious-based belief.

Along the same lines is the idea that everyone used to think the earth was flat. Not so.

01101001
2004-Aug-31, 04:06 PM
I fail to see the connection between the two "liquids" mentioned, but there must be a reason, otherwise it would not have been published.

Dearth of infectious agents.

Sticks
2004-Aug-31, 04:12 PM
Since the inception of the scientific method, I can't think of a single large mainstream theory that was junked or mystical idea that became scientific. I tend to think the scientific method itself precludes that.


So who was it that first formulated the Scientific Method ?

The name I come up with is Sir Francis Bacon, but I can not remember where from or if that is correct or not.

Avatar28
2004-Aug-31, 04:52 PM
I fail to see the connection between the two "liquids" mentioned, but there must be a reason, otherwise it would not have been published.

Dearth of infectious agents.

Hmm, that's probably one. When the germ theory of disease was first proposed, it was considered pretty woowoo I believe. Yet know we know that it is correct.

Irishman
2004-Aug-31, 06:44 PM
The use of leeches is a totally different context. The old-time use was to bleed - basically, to suck the bad humors out of the body. The new-fangled use is to assist the reconnection of amputated limbs and aid in the improvement of circulation. Leeches help the blood flow, which reestablishes the capillaries and aids in keeping flesh alive.

One idea that is prominently bantied about is plate techtonics and continental drift. When first proposed it was considered loony. Then investigation of the sea floor turned up evidence, and the scientific community eventually turned around. Again, it took doing research and finding evidence - doing the science.

Note that the woo there was not mystical in nature, merely physical interactions on such a large scale as to not fit then current conceptions.

Urine is sterile when fresh from the source. Thus distilled water or fresh urine, rather than stagnant pond water or day-old urine. I assume the flushing is largely to remove the maggots.

Sir Francis Bacon is credited with first formulating "the Scientific Method". The philosophy of what is science and whether there is a scientific method and how real science works is still a debated issue.

Disinfo Agent
2004-Aug-31, 07:22 PM
Well, we once thought that the Earth was at the center of the universe, and look at how wrong that was. That shows that even really strange ideas should be given consideration (assuming that it's backed up by proof) But that falls into the category I listed, of things that were never actually considered by scientists to be valid. That was always a religious-based belief.
Aristotle's arguments in favor of the Earth being at the centre of the universe were not religious. At best, you could say they were 'philosophical'.
And who says he was wrong (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=5170) about that, anyway...? :)




Since the inception of the scientific method, I can't think of a single large mainstream theory that was junked or mystical idea that became scientific. I tend to think the scientific method itself precludes that.


So who was it that first formulated the Scientific Method ?
Galileo?
But it took a while for the ideas to set in.

Sticks
2005-Apr-06, 04:15 PM
In honour of Phils excellent debunking of Astrology, discussed here (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=449176&#449176) I thought I would bring this thread back and ask

When did Astronomy emerge and break free from Astrology? Who lead the way?

10stone5
2005-Apr-06, 05:12 PM
:roll:

farmerjumperdon
2005-Apr-06, 05:12 PM
Like so many other brilliant ideas, as well as mechanical inventions - no one person came up with it overnight. Most everyhting is part of a continuum of discovery, with lots of people contributing bits and pieces along the way. Often, the person making the last connection gets all the credit.

No one person invented science. It evolved as a way of thinking over a period of time due to the contributions of many great thinkers.

BTW, how many people remember the Connections series with James Burke? Great stuff - it was required viewing for one of my Intro Philosophy classes. Is he still alive? Speaking of great documentary series, anybody remember The Ascent of Man with James Bronowski? That's one I do not own and would love to find.

Maybe we need a Great Documentaries thread.

Hamlet
2005-Apr-06, 05:22 PM
BTW, how many people remember the Connections series with James Burke? Great stuff - it was required viewing for one of my Intro Philosophy classes. Is he still alive? Speaking of great documentary series, anybody remember The Ascent of Man with James Bronowski? That's one I do not own and would love to find.

Maybe we need a Great Documentaries thread.

"Connections" was a favorite of mine. I also liked Burke's "The Day The Universe Changed". To my knowledge Burke is still alive, but I haven't seen anything from him in a while. It's been a long time since I saw "The Ascent of Man". I'd love to see it again.

Swift
2005-Apr-06, 05:26 PM
Like so many other brilliant ideas, as well as mechanical inventions - no one person came up with it overnight. Most everyhting is part of a continuum of discovery, with lots of people contributing bits and pieces along the way. Often, the person making the last connection gets all the credit.

No one person invented science. It evolved as a way of thinking over a period of time due to the contributions of many great thinkers.

BTW, how many people remember the Connections series with James Burke? Great stuff - it was required viewing for one of my Intro Philosophy classes. Is he still alive? Speaking of great documentary series, anybody remember The Ascent of Man with James Bronowski? That's one I do not own and would love to find.

Maybe we need a Great Documentaries thread.
Remember and loved both of those series.
James Burke is still alive wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Burke_%28science_historian%29)

Bronowski passed in 1974 reference (http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Bronowski.html). I have the book version of The Ascent of Man; it is probably 10 or 15 years since I read it; I should go take another look. :-k

Parrothead
2005-Apr-06, 05:34 PM
Since the inception of the scientific method, I can't think of a single large mainstream theory that was junked or mystical idea that became scientific. I tend to think the scientific method itself precludes that.


So who was it that first formulated the Scientific Method ?

The name I come up with is Sir Francis Bacon, but I can not remember where from or if that is correct or not.

In his book Origins of Modern Science, it looks like Butterfield attributes it to Bacon, but stating it took the work of others to build upon the model. Later in the century Huygens would criticize Bacon for the lack of mathematics.

Trebuchet
2005-Apr-06, 06:59 PM
In honour of Phils excellent debunking of Astrology, discussed here (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=449176&#449176) I thought I would bring this thread back and ask

When did Astronomy emerge and break free from Astrology? Who lead the way?

I'd have to question the connection between astrology and modern astronomy. I think the development of astronomy was driven to a large degree by the need for accurate navigational info. That's why the Royal Observatory in Greenwich was established.

Sticks
2005-Apr-06, 09:35 PM
I'd have to question the connection between astrology and modern astronomy. I think the development of astronomy was driven to a large degree by the need for accurate navigational info. That's why the Royal Observatory in Greenwich was established.

Actually it dates back a tad earlier than that according to Alan Chapman's book of the Channel 4 TV series Gods in the Sky (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0752261649/qid=1112822183/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/026-5960920-2363653)



Gods in the Sky reveals that, despite the common presumption that astronomy started with Galileo, the ancient civilisations were acutely conscious of the night sky. By demystifying their mythologies, we see how their understanding of the heavens led to the development of complex calendars, sophisticated navigational techniques and the grasp of deep mathematical principles.

Central to the development of astronomy as an exploratory science was the emergence of the idea of one creator God who designed the universe and human intelligence in accordance with rational principles – an idea found in ancient Jewish thought as well as the Greek idea of the logos. And when these ideas came together in early Christianity around AD 200, and then in Islam four centuries later, they made possible a radical new understanding of nature as a rational whole that the human mind could comprehend.

Gods in the Sky traces this journey from Egypt and Babylon through Jewish thought and Greek science and philosophy. Allan Chapman describes the extraordinary rise of science first in medieval Islam and then in Christian Europe, which exploded with new intellectual energy after AD 1100, creating amongst other things, medieval Europe’s great universities. He demolishes the popular myth that religious belief has always been an enemy of science and shows that, on the contrary, without religious awareness, science would never have come into being in the first place.


I wish I was in a position to get a copy of this book :(

I was thinking that Astronomy was analagous to Chemistry. Originally, so the story goes, alchemists set out to look for the philosophers stone, for the elixias of immortality or to turn base metals into gold. They of course failed, but in the process a lot of "chemistry" was discovered. Later people like Antoine Lavoisier and John Dalton, jettisoned the woo woo stuff and developed Chemistry into the modern science it is today

Klausnh
2005-Apr-06, 11:09 PM
Since the inception of the scientific method, I can't think of a single large mainstream theoy that was junked or mystical idea that became scientific. I tend to think the scientific method itself precludes that.
Wouldn't the Steady State theory be an example of a "mainstream theory that was junked"?

My emphasis.

Lord Jubjub
2005-Apr-06, 11:33 PM
What about Wegener's theory on Continental Drift? His mechanics were wrong but scientists laughed at the idea that the continents moved at all.

Sam5
2005-Apr-07, 01:51 AM
I wish I was in a position to get a copy of this book :(

Looks like there are some copies available in the UK for as little as £5.50.... :D

LINK TO BOOK (http://dogbert.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?tn=Gods+in+the+Sky+&ph=2&gpnm=All+Bo ok+Stores&an=Chapman&sts=t)

ranugad
2005-Apr-07, 02:31 AM
BTW, how many people remember the Connections series with James Burke? Great stuff -

Agree. It was on one of the cable channels as recently as last year.
My wife and I loved that show.
But I thought it was Conections2(squared). We've wondered if there was two runs, and if any of them are available on tape or disc. Anyone know?

bob

Izunya
2005-Apr-07, 02:36 AM
BTW, how many people remember the Connections series with James Burke? Great stuff -

Agree. It was on one of the cable channels as recently as last year.
My wife and I loved that show.
But I thought it was Conections2(squared). We've wondered if there was two runs, and if any of them are available on tape or disc. Anyone know?

bob

Yes, there were several runs, more than two IIRC. The original Connections and The Day the Universe Changed are both hour-long shows. The others are half-hour pieces. And I've gotten Connections on disc from my local library. You might check yours; it's the sort of thing that libraries like to carry (and good for them).

Izunya

Sticks
2005-Apr-07, 05:32 AM
I wish I was in a position to get a copy of this book :(

Looks like there are some copies available in the UK for as little as £5.50.... :D

LINK TO BOOK (http://dogbert.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?tn=Gods+in+the+Sky+&ph=2&gpnm=All+Bo ok+Stores&an=Chapman&sts=t)

But it looks like they sting you on the shipping :(

Enzp
2005-Apr-07, 06:46 AM
Others have beaten me to it, but certainly plate tectonics was considered off the wall by scientists, I remember that vividly growing up and looking at the obvious fit of the land masses. And the concept of the big bang was also not accepted by most scientists at first. So add my votes for those.

captain swoop
2005-Apr-07, 08:23 AM
"Connections" was a favorite of mine. I also liked Burke's "The Day The Universe Changed". To my knowledge Burke is still alive, but I haven't seen anything from him in a while. It's been a long time since I saw "The Ascent of Man". I'd love to see it again.

Burke had a 'Connections' column in the back of Scientific Amnerican until recently.

Eta C
2005-Apr-07, 12:52 PM
Others have beaten me to it, but certainly plate tectonics was considered off the wall by scientists, I remember that vividly growing up and looking at the obvious fit of the land masses. And the concept of the big bang was also not accepted by most scientists at first. So add my votes for those.

One thing to remember about plate tectonics. When Wegener proposed the idea there was no evidence for it aside from the possibly fortuitous fitting together of the continents. Based on the shapes of the continents alone one could just as easily come up with a "continential drip" theory that posits some force that pulls the continents toward the south pole. After all the pointy ends are all toward the south. Australia is clearly drooping over some point of resistance, and Sri Lanka is an obvious droplet from India. The fact that there's a continent at the south pole but not at the north clearly indicates that land wants to accumulate to the south. And so on. This is the way Wegener sounded to geologists at the time.

With very little evidence to support it and no mechanism to explain why continents should move Wegener's concept was relegated to a back burner. However, as time went on more and more evidence that pointed to its correctness accumulated. The discovery of the mid-ocean ridge system. The discovery of the large subduction trenches around the Pacific rim. The correlation of these with earthquakes and volcanos. The real clincher was the discovery of symmetric magnetization bands on either side of the mid-Atlantic ridge. This was clear evidence that the ridge was a spreading center. Plate Tectonics, the proper scientific development of Wegener's Continental Drift idea, was the only theory that explained all of these observations. Once evidence for drift became undeniable, and a mechanism of spreading at ridges and subduction at trenches was developed, the theory became mainstream. Also remember that plate tectonics as we know it now is not the theory that Wegener proposed. It has undergone some development.

So, what's the moral? In my opinion plate tectonics is one of the few, if not the only, example of an initially disregarded idea proposed by someone outside the scientific community that has become mainstream. It was not an obviously right concept supressed by a ridgid scientific priesthood. Rather, it was a remotely plausible idea with no observational support. Once that observational support came along, the scientific community adopted the the theory, developed it, and made it the foundation of geology it is today.

Sam5
2005-Apr-07, 02:43 PM
But it looks like they sting you on the shipping :(

Oops, that was the US Abe’s, and the shipping was to the US. Here is the UK Abe’s:

LINK TO UK ABE’S (http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/SearchResults?&tn=Gods+in+the+Sky&cty=GBR&ph=2&ds= 25&an=Chapman&sts=t)

Shipping is about £3.35 to an address in the UK. :D

A Thousand Pardons
2005-Apr-07, 04:13 PM
One thing to remember about plate tectonics. When Wegener proposed the idea there was no evidence for it aside from the possibly fortuitous fitting together of the continents.
No, that's not true. Wegener amassed a large amount of correlative fossil and strata data that supported the theory. In addition, this article (http://pubs.usgs.gov/publications/text/wegener.html) says that he mentioned that shallower oceans were geologically younger, in the fourth edition of his book, just the year before he died.


So, what's the moral? In my opinion plate tectonics is one of the few, if not the only, example of an initially disregarded idea proposed by someone outside the scientific community that has become mainstream.

How do you define "scientific community"? As that link says, Wegener had a doctorate in planetary astronomy, and was a meteorologist. He had obtained a professorship at the University of Graz, just before he died.

It was not an obviously right concept supressed by a ridgid scientific priesthood. Rather, it was a remotely plausible idea with no observational support.

There was, and is, a lot of geologic and paleontologic evidence. However, such sort of evidence has always been held suspect. The geologists had ample evidence for their estimates of the age of the earth, but Lord Kelvin's simple (and erroneous) calculations of the age of the sun refuted them.

Once that observational support came along, the scientific community adopted the the theory, developed it, and made it the foundation of geology it is today.
Once the observational evidence became overwhelming, you mean. Of course, even today, there are still hold outs who deny plate tectonics.

SciFi Chick
2005-Apr-07, 05:10 PM
Since the inception of the scientific method, I can't think of a single large mainstream theoy that was junked or mystical idea that became scientific. I tend to think the scientific method itself precludes that.
Wouldn't the Steady State theory be an example of a "mainstream theory that was junked"?

My emphasis.

You realize you aren't going to get a response, right?

Eta C
2005-Apr-07, 05:31 PM
It was not an obviously right concept supressed by a ridgid scientific priesthood. Rather, it was a remotely plausible idea with no observational support.

There was, and is, a lot of geologic and paleontologic evidence. However, such sort of evidence has always been held suspect. The geologists had ample evidence for their estimates of the age of the earth, but Lord Kelvin's simple (and erroneous) calculations of the age of the sun refuted them.

Once that observational support came along, the scientific community adopted the the theory, developed it, and made it the foundation of geology it is today.
Once the observational evidence became overwhelming, you mean. Of course, even today, there are still hold outs who deny plate tectonics.

Well, one can argue about the degree of evidence Wegener accumulated. I would still contend it was circumstantial and while suggestive, it was not compelling. The lack of a mechanism to explain how the crust moved or where older crust went was the major deficiency and the primary reason most geologists dismissed the theory. Once the spreading centers in the ridges were discovered, this was overcome. Frankly, my guess is that people tend to exaggerate the amount of opposition plate tectonics faced. The rapidity with which it was developed after the discovery of the mid-ocean ridges suggests that it was always condsidered a possibility.

As to Wegener's quals, while he was an educated man working in a scientific field, he was not (at least initially) a professional geologist. This is the basis for my contention that he was outside the scientific community.

One might argue today about the mechanisms that cause continental drift or the details of plate tectonic theory. However, I would be surprised if there were a professional geologist worth his rock hammer who today denies the reality of continental drift. That's the same as a professional biologist denying the validity of evolution or the existence of DNA.

Eta C
2005-Apr-07, 05:40 PM
Since the inception of the scientific method, I can't think of a single large mainstream theoy that was junked or mystical idea that became scientific. I tend to think the scientific method itself precludes that.
Wouldn't the Steady State theory be an example of a "mainstream theory that was junked"?

My emphasis.

You realize you aren't going to get a response, right?

Well, since Russ, sadly, isn't around I'll take a shot. The point he's making is that although valid mainstream theories may be supplanted, they never lose their validity in their original contexts. Newtonian mechanics and gravitation are perfectly useable even though special and general relativity are more complete theories. The same goes for the classical electrodynamics of Maxwell as compared to quantum electrodynamics.

At the time the SS universe was put forth there were several compting theories of the development of the universe. One was the steady state model. The big bang (or expansionist) model was another. Initially, both seemed plausible. Over time, observational evidence favored the big bang theory. That is, there were observations that the big bang theory could explain that steady state theory could not. So this is less a case of having a well established theory totally tossed out (which is what Russ was referring to) as to having two competing theories, one of which is discarded as the other becomes the mainstream.

Klausnh
2005-Apr-08, 11:36 AM
Since the inception of the scientific method, I can't think of a single large mainstream theoy that was junked or mystical idea that became scientific. I tend to think the scientific method itself precludes that.
Wouldn't the Steady State theory be an example of a "mainstream theory that was junked"?

My emphasis.

You realize you aren't going to get a response, right?

Well, since Russ, sadly, isn't around I'll take a shot. The point he's making is that although valid mainstream theories may be supplanted, they never lose their validity in their original contexts. Newtonian mechanics and gravitation are perfectly useable even though special and general relativity are more complete theories. The same goes for the classical electrodynamics of Maxwell as compared to quantum electrodynamics.

At the time the SS universe was put forth there were several compting theories of the development of the universe. One was the steady state model. The big bang (or expansionist) model was another. Initially, both seemed plausible. Over time, observational evidence favored the big bang theory. That is, there were observations that the big bang theory could explain that steady state theory could not. So this is less a case of having a well established theory totally tossed out (which is what Russ was referring to) as to having two competing theories, one of which is discarded as the other becomes the mainstream.
Yes, SciFi. I realized I wasn't going to get a response from Russ_Watters.
Eta C: I agree withthe first paragraph, but that doesn't apply to SS/BB. Newtonian mechanics and classical electrodynamics are still valid for special circumstances but SS is not.
As to the second paragraph, that's not the way I remember science history. I'll have to check some books, but I thought that SS was the prevalent and accepted theory, while BB was the newcomer.

Eta C
2005-Apr-08, 12:48 PM
I quite agree, Klaus, that steady state cosmology does not have a region of validity as does, say, Newtonian mechanics. I thought I had said as much in my post. My understanding of the history (which I will also check on) is that early versions of big bang cosmology and steady state theories co-existed as competitors. So it was less a case of BB cosmology supplanting a mainstream steady state model as it was BB winning out as its predictions matched or could accomodate observations more than SS theories such as those of Hoyle. The real backbreaker was the CMB which steady state theories cannot account for.

Sticks
2005-Apr-08, 01:27 PM
Oops, that was the US Abe’s, and the shipping was to the US. Here is the UK Abe’s:

LINK TO UK ABE’S (http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/SearchResults?&tn=Gods+in+the+Sky&cty=GBR&ph=2&ds= 25&an=Chapman&sts=t)

Shipping is about £3.35 to an address in the UK. :D

\:D/ My copy now on order

So who was the father of modern Astronomy who finally threw off the shackles of astrology ? :-?

Hopefully the answer may be in the book if no one here knows it :P

George
2005-Apr-08, 01:36 PM
If the Static Universe theory would have been used in lieu of Steady State, I suspect it would have served better as an example of a failed adopted theory.

Could not the BB theory be an example of a "woo woo theory" that became accepted? Georges Lamaitre proposed it in 1927 as a result of his calculations from GR theory (two years before Hubbles red-shift findings). Einstein, favoring the Static universe, rejected Lamaitre and rejected Friedmann (who calculated an expanding universe, too).

Regarding earlier posts with medical serendipity, I like the one about babies recovering from hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) because some nurse had unwittingly exposed these babies to sunlight. (It also is the only big med word I know.)

Eta C
2005-Apr-08, 02:19 PM
Could not the BB theory be an example of a "woo woo theory" that became accepted? Georges Lamaitre proposed it in 1927 as a result of his calculations from GR theory (two years before Hubbles red-shift findings). Einstein, favoring the Static universe, rejected Lamaitre and rejected Friedmann (who calculated an expanding universe, too).

I don't think you could characterize BB theory as "woo woo" (although many of those who find it aesthetically displeasing have tried). As you say, some of the original BB theories were based on extrapolations from GR, therefore they had some scientific background, even if they had no observational support. Many theories start this way. Someone extrapolates from existing theories, then confirmatory data comes along. (Or more commonly doesn't. The scientific trash heap is loaded with ideas that never bore fruit. (don't you love mixed metaphors)).

No, when I think of "woo woo" I picture something that has no foundation in current science and not a shred of evidence to suggest that it's right. I wouldn't characterize the original continental drift theories as "woo woo." Wegener had some measure of observational evidence and plausibility from the get go. A better example would be along the lines of what would happen if homeopathy were to become the foundation of a new chemistry and physiology.

George
2005-Apr-08, 03:51 PM
I don't think you could characterize BB theory as "woo woo" (although many of those who find it aesthetically displeasing have tried). As you say, some of the original BB theories were based on extrapolations from GR, therefore they had some scientific background, even if they had no observational support. Many theories start this way.
"Woo woo" might indeed be too strong a term. However, Lamaitre's work was hardly acceptable to many including Einstein who commented..."Your calculations are correct, but your grasp of physics is abominable.” Eddington, and some others, apparently accepted the expansion idea but did not like a creation moment calling it "repugnant". Lamaitre (and Friedmann) had determined GR theory required a shrinking or an expanding universe. Lamaitre concluded it was expanding based on observed redshift (prior to Hubble's definitve work) and concluded some sort of primeval atom was the beginning, as he described it "the Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation". This, apparently, was not very accpetable since the Static universe was so well liked at the time. As you know, Fred Hoyle's "Big Bang" term was meant to be derogatory.

Nevertheless, I agree with your correction as Lamaitre did get a PhD for his GR work, I think. I would assume "woo woo" theories do not generate PhD's. :)


The scientific trash heap is loaded with ideas that never bore fruit. (don't you love mixed metaphors)).
Nope. Where'd you cook-up that idea? I'm strictly a "meat and potatoes" guy. :D :wink:


No, when I think of "woo woo" I picture something that has no foundation in current science and not a shred of evidence to suggest that it's right. I wouldn't characterize the original continental drift theories as "woo woo." Wegener had some measure of observational evidence and plausibility from the get go. A better example would be along the lines of what would happen if homeopathy were to become the foundation of a new chemistry and physiology.
Odd, I can not recall any thread that clearly defines the significant term of "woo woo". Clearly, it needs disecting for this bulletin board, if it has not been done. Has it? #-o

A Thousand Pardons
2005-Apr-08, 05:34 PM
Well, one can argue about the degree of evidence Wegener accumulated.

Wegener published it, so there's not much argument there.

I was objecting to your statement that the theory "was a remotely plausible idea with no observational support." He provided plenty of observational support.


I would still contend it was circumstantial and while suggestive, it was not compelling.

The coincidence of timing and extent of strata on opposite sides of the Atlantic is no more or less circumstantial than the coincidence of the magnetic stripes that parallel the mid-ocean ridge. It's just another set of data in favor.


The lack of a mechanism to explain how the crust moved or where older crust went was the major deficiency and the primary reason most geologists dismissed the theory.

Well, we still don't understand the mechanism, but most have been persuaded by that preponderance of circumstantial evidence.


One might argue today about the mechanisms that cause continental drift or the details of plate tectonic theory. However, I would be surprised if there were a professional geologist worth his rock hammer who today denies the reality of continental drift. That's the same as a professional biologist denying the validity of evolution or the existence of DNA.
There are/were some. The theory is a geophysical theory, so one can be a good geologist but be "outside that scienctific community."

Eta C
2005-Apr-09, 07:58 PM
The coincidence of timing and extent of strata on opposite sides of the Atlantic is no more or less circumstantial than the coincidence of the magnetic stripes that parallel the mid-ocean ridge. It's just another set of data in favor.


The lack of a mechanism to explain how the crust moved or where older crust went was the major deficiency and the primary reason most geologists dismissed the theory.

Well, we still don't understand the mechanism, but most have been persuaded by that preponderance of circumstantial evidence.

One objection geologists of Wegener's time had was that there was no direct evidence that the crust was spreading. The similarity of rock strata is great, but how, they asked, can the continents move if the crust is stationary? Well, the discovery of the mid-ocean spreading centers, at first through the magnetism measurements and then through the actual observation of volcanism there showed that the crust did indeed spread and move. There is still debate in the geological community about what ultimately drives the spreading, but no real geologist of this day and age (2005) denies that the spreading and continental drift occur. This is more than an accumulation of circumstantial evidence. The motion of the crustal plates is an observational fact.



One might argue today about the mechanisms that cause continental drift or the details of plate tectonic theory. However, I would be surprised if there were a professional geologist worth his rock hammer who today denies the reality of continental drift. That's the same as a professional biologist denying the validity of evolution or the existence of DNA.
There are/were some. The theory is a geophysical theory, so one can be a good geologist but be "outside that scienctific community."[/quote]

That there were some is obvious. Any new theory such as plate tectonics (or QM, BB cosmology, or SR for that matter) has some skeptical opposition in the scientific community. As the theory works its way into the mainstream the skeptics are either converted, or ultimately fade into irrelevance. Even Einstein, in the 1950's made fewer contributions to physics in part due to his opposition to quantum mechanics.

Again, I would draw the analolgy of biology. No real biologist denies that evolution occurs although they may dispute among various ways in which it occurs. I would respectfully disagree that a "good" geologist could operate and not accept the reality of continental drift. He may not like the theory of plate tectonics, but a geologist who denies continental drift is no better than an astronomer who argues that the earth must be stationary and the universe revolves around it. As one of the scientists who ultimately put that one to rest said, eppur si muove.

Klausnh
2005-Apr-09, 09:33 PM
I quite agree, Klaus, that steady state cosmology does not have a region of validity as does, say, Newtonian mechanics. I thought I had said as much in my post. My understanding of the history (which I will also check on) is that early versions of big bang cosmology and steady state theories co-existed as competitors. So it was less a case of BB cosmology supplanting a mainstream steady state model as it was BB winning out as its predictions matched or could accomodate observations more than SS theories such as those of Hoyle. The real backbreaker was the CMB which steady state theories cannot account for.

If the Static Universe theory would have been used in lieu of Steady State, I suspect it would have served better as an example of a failed adopted theory.

Checked by books. You're correct, Eta c. They say memory is the first to go. Static Universe is the one I was thinking of .

beskeptical
2005-Apr-10, 07:29 AM
Well if you look at medicine. They are back to using leeches. ;)But not for the same reasons.

But I see that has been mentioned. It's just not a good idea to try to get into a thread after 3 pages are already posted. :P

A Thousand Pardons
2005-Apr-10, 07:03 PM
One objection geologists of Wegener's time had was that there was no direct evidence that the crust was spreading. The similarity of rock strata is great, but how, they asked, can the continents move if the crust is stationary?

? The continents are part of the crust.

Well, the discovery of the mid-ocean spreading centers, at first through the magnetism measurements and then through the actual observation of volcanism there showed that the crust did indeed spread and move. There is still debate in the geological community about what ultimately drives the spreading, but no real geologist of this day and age (2005) denies that the spreading and continental drift occur.
There have been prominent geologists who have opposed plate tectonics. Beloussov and Meyerhoff and Meyerhoff for a few--but I do believe those three are dead. They did publish papers into the nineties, which is not 2005, but it's close. And their legacy lives on in some of the younger geologists. I see occasional publications from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the society that supported Meyerhoff's work. Part of the problem is that the petroleum geologists have access to a vast database of non-public proprietary data, and they don't share.

This is more than an accumulation of circumstantial evidence. The motion of the crustal plates is an observational fact.
GPS has done a lot for that, but there's always an alternative explanation for anything, though sometimes wacko.



There are/were some. The theory is a geophysical theory, so one can be a good geologist but be "outside that scienctific community."
That there were some is obvious. Any new theory such as plate tectonics (or QM, BB cosmology, or SR for that matter) has some skeptical opposition in the scientific community. As the theory works its way into the mainstream the skeptics are either converted, or ultimately fade into irrelevance.
Unless their objections are valid. :)

Even Einstein, in the 1950's made fewer contributions to physics in part due to his opposition to quantum mechanics.
His opposition to quantum mechanics had almost nothing to do with his drop in production in the 50's--he spent the last half of the decade in the grave, and he was past 70 when the decade started. He retired, given emeritus status at the Institute for Advanced Study, in 1944. Ten years before that, he and Podolsky and Rosen developed the EPR analysis--in opposition to quantum mechanics--that is still forming and influencing research.


Again, I would draw the analolgy of biology. No real biologist denies that evolution occurs although they may dispute among various ways in which it occurs. I would respectfully disagree that a "good" geologist could operate and not accept the reality of continental drift. He may not like the theory of plate tectonics, but a geologist who denies continental drift is no better than an astronomer who argues that the earth must be stationary and the universe revolves around it. As one of the scientists who ultimately put that one to rest said, eppur si muove.
There is a distinction between continental drift and plate tectonics, though. That there is motion is undeniable--you can see that just by kicking a pebble--but how and why it moves is where there is contention.

Kesh
2005-Apr-10, 09:07 PM
One objection geologists of Wegener's time had was that there was no direct evidence that the crust was spreading. The similarity of rock strata is great, but how, they asked, can the continents move if the crust is stationary?

? The continents are part of the crust.

That's the point, ATP. At the time, it was believed that the crust was stationary, so the continents couldn't be moving. It was only after we discovered the various plates and movement thereof that the theory gained steam.

A Thousand Pardons
2005-Apr-11, 02:10 AM
One objection geologists of Wegener's time had was that there was no direct evidence that the crust was spreading. The similarity of rock strata is great, but how, they asked, can the continents move if the crust is stationary?

? The continents are part of the crust.

That's the point, ATP. At the time, it was believed that the crust was stationary, so the continents couldn't be moving. It was only after we discovered the various plates and movement thereof that the theory gained steam.
That wasn't my point, though. I just wanted to say that "If the crust is stationary, then the continents aren't moving" is about the simplest and clearest cut example of begging the question that I've ever run into. I'll probably use it later. :)

Eta C
2005-Apr-11, 12:56 PM
Just one thing to make sure I'm not misunderstood. Continental drift is an observational fact. Plate Tectonics is the current geological theory used to explain why continental drift occurs. One can object to the latter without disputed the existence of the former. I stand by my statement that a geologist who denies the existence of continental drift is about as useful as an astronomer who believes in geocentricity or a biologist who denies the existence of evolution.

Some early ideas that attempted to explain continental drift did, in fact, consider the continents to be separate from the crust. The idea was that they, perhpas, floated on top of the crust itself instead of being fixed into it. Some geologists of the time objected to this interpretation.

A Thousand Pardons
2005-Apr-11, 01:21 PM
Just one thing to make sure I'm not misunderstood. Continental drift is an observational fact.

In what sense do you mean that? Do you mean, like the meter or so that North America has moved from Europe?

Some early ideas that attempted to explain continental drift did, in fact, consider the continents to be separate from the crust. The idea was that they, perhpas, floated on top of the crust itself instead of being fixed into it. Some geologists of the time objected to this interpretation.
Do you have a citation for that?

As I remember it, the early drifters had the continents plowing through the oceanic crust, but that's not the same thing.

Eta C
2005-Apr-11, 01:42 PM
Just one thing to make sure I'm not misunderstood. Continental drift is an observational fact.

In what sense do you mean that? Do you mean, like the meter or so that North America has moved from Europe?

Or the mile or so Point Reyes has moved past the rest of the California coast, or the thousands of miles of seamounts trailing across the Pacific Ocean from the Hawaiian hot spot. Continental drift (including the motion of the seafloor crustal plates) is an observed fact. I've never denied this. The argument I've been making is that much of this evidence was not available when Wegener first proposed his theories. That is one reason why they were initially disounted. As the evidence mounted, especially the discovery of the mid-ocean spreading centers, this changed, and plate tectonics developed as a theory to explain it. One can argue with the validity of that theory, but any other theory must be able to explain the facts.



Some early ideas that attempted to explain continental drift did, in fact, consider the continents to be separate from the crust. The idea was that they, perhpas, floated on top of the crust itself instead of being fixed into it. Some geologists of the time objected to this interpretation.
Do you have a citation for that?

As I remember it, the early drifters had the continents plowing through the oceanic crust, but that's not the same thing.

No, I was pulling that from memory. I may have mis-remembered the "plowing" ideas. In any case, there were theories that let the continents move while the crust remained fixed.

Eta C
2005-Apr-11, 02:12 PM
For a quick overview of the history of plate tectonics, The US Geological Survey has a nice site called This Dynamic Earth. (http://pubs.usgs.gov/publications/text/dynamic.html) It discusses the origins of the idea as well as the discoveries in the 50's and 60's (20 to 30 years after Wegener's death) that spurred the acceptance of continental drift and the development of plate tectonic theory. They are

1) The ruggedness and youth of the ocean floor.
2) Confirmation of magnetic field reversals.
3) Development and confirmation of the sea floor spreading hypothesis
4) Documentation of the concentration of earthquakes and volcanos along oceanic ridges and trenches.

In retrospect, I think my statement about the continents moving over a fixed crust comes from the fact that the continents do, in fact, "float" on top of the heavier, basaltic crust of the oceans. Whether or not this was ever used as an explanation of how they would move, I haven't confirmed.

Klausnh
2005-Apr-12, 01:48 PM
The idea that animals can think and have personalities was, as recently as the 1980's, not acknowledged by scientists as being plausible and pet owners who disagreed were considered "woo woos" by scientists.

captain swoop
2005-Apr-12, 02:11 PM
The idea that animals can think and have personalities was, as recently as the 1980's, not acknowledged by scientists as being plausible and pet owners who disagreed were considered "woo woos" by scientists.

Which scientists thought that animals couldn't think?

Klausnh
2005-Apr-12, 06:43 PM
The idea that animals can think and have personalities was, as recently as the 1980's, not acknowledged by scientists as being plausible and pet owners who disagreed were considered "woo woos" by scientists.

Which scientists thought that animals couldn't think?
I don't remember any names, but googling gives me psychology professor Clive Wynne and Stephen Budiansky as 2 current critics of animal intelligence.

Nevertheles, many scientists still think that animals are basically sleepwalkers, carrying out complex actions but completely unaware they are doing so.

This notion only dates back to the1920s, when the psychological theory known as behaviorism took hold. Behaviorists said that any animal behavior, no matter how complex, could be explained in terms of the interaction of learned responses to stimuli. Behaviorism made it possible for psychologists to carry out rigorous experiments, and so it became very popular.
from here (http://www.edwardwillett.com/Columns/animalintelligence.htm)
This is the way of thinking scientists had when I was younger.

Fortunately, "the times they are a changin'" (http://www.sciamdigital.com/browse.cfm?sequencenameCHAR=item2&methodnameCHAR=r esource_getitembrowse&interfacenameCHAR=browse.cfm &ISSUEID_CHAR=040BEB3A-E2DD-4725-A421-A72782A4EA0&ARTICLEID_CHAR=B20A3701-AE21-48DC-8CA4-AF66D0ECF6B&sc=I100322)


In the past two decades, however, this comfortable assumption of intellectual superiority has come under increasingly skeptical scrutiny. Most researchers now at least entertain the once heretical possibility that some animals can indeed think.