It is widely supposed that the scientists in any field use identical standards for evaluating theories. Without such unity of standards, consensus about scientific theories is supposedly unintelligible. However, the hypothesis of uniform standards can explain neither scientific disagreement nor scientific innovation. This paper seeks to show how the presumption of divergent standards (when linked to a hypothesis of dominance) can explain agreement, disagreement and innovation. By way of illustrating how a rational community with divergent standards can encourage innovation and (...) eventually reach consensus, recent developments in geophysics are discussed at some length. (shrink)
One of the ironies of our time is the sparsity of useful analytic tools for understanding change and development within technology itself. For all the diatribes about the disastrous effects of technology on modern life, for all the equally uncritical paeans to technology as the panacea for human ills, the vociferous pro- and anti-technology movements have failed to illuminate the nature of technology. On a more scholarly level, in the midst of claims by Marxists and non-Marxists alike about the technological (...) underpinnings of the major social and economic changes of the last couple of centuries, and despite advice given to government and industry about managing science and technology by a small army of consultants and policy analysts, technology itself remains locked inside an impenetrable black box, a deus ex machina to be invoked when all other explanations of puzzling social and economic pheoomena fail. The discipline that has probably done most to penetrate that black box in recent years by studying the 1 internal development of technology is history. Historians of technology and certain economic historians have carried out careful and detailed studies on the genesis and impact of technological innovations, and the structu-re of the social systems associated with those innovations. Within the past few decades tentative consensus about the periodization and the major traditions within the history of technology has begun to emerge, at least as far as Britain and America in the eighteenth and nineteenth century are concerned. (shrink)
"A rich historical pastiche of 17th- and 18th-century philosophy, science, and religion."—G. Y. Craig, New Scientist "This book, by a distinguished Italian historian of philosophy, is a worthy successor to the author's important works on Francis Bacon and on technology and the arts. First published in Italian (in 1979), it now makes available to English readers some subtly wrought arguments about the ways in which geology and anthropology challenged biblical chronology and forced changes in the philosophy of history in the (...) early modern era.... [Rossi] shows that the search for new answers about human origins spanned many disciplines and involved many fascinating intellects—Bacon, Bayle, Buffon, Burnet, Descartes, Hobbes, Holbach, Hooke, Hume, Hutton, Leibniz, de Maillet, Newton, Pufendorf, Spinoza, Toland, and, most especially, Vico, whose works are impressively and freshly reevaluated here."—Nina Gelbart, American Scientist. (shrink)
This paper surveys recent trends in the history of science, using quotations from works published in the last decade. It suggests that philosophers of science have not yet come to terms with those changes, indicates which might or might not lead to productive interchange, and concludes that history and philosophy of science are now further apart than at any time since the early 1960's.
The 1960s witnessed a striking change in geology. Since at least the seventeenth century, one of the central problems of the subject had been the origin of the major irregularities of the surface of the globe—continents and oceans, mountain chains and ocean islands—irregularities that were not anticipated by most physical theories. Traditionally these features had usually been explained either as residual traces of events occurring during the very early history of the globe, or as the result of vertical movements of (...) the earth’s crust, caused, for example, by changes in the heat budget. The last two decades have seen an end to all this. The vast majority of geologists now believe that these irregularities largely result from the lateral movement of thin rigid plates covering the earth, a theory now known as “plate tectonics”, but a theory which also has obvious parallels with the hypothesis of continental drift, in which it was postulated that continents can move laterally. (shrink)
The period between 1780 and 1840 has long been regarded as a crucial one in the development of geology. In 1780, relatively little was known about the structures and processes of the earth in spite of the efforts of individual mining engineers and bureaucrats, mineralogists, fossil collectors and cosmogonists. By 1840, the sequence of the European rocks was well on the way to being sorted out. This laid the groundwork for the reconstruction of the history of the earth and also (...) of life on the earth. Sophisticated theories of geological causes, consistent with contemporary physics, were in hand. The appropriate methodologies for both historical and causal investigation had been much debated, and a coherent and self-conscious body of men devoted themselves almost exclusively to geology. (shrink)