[pcp-discuss:] [Fwd: Scientific Modeling]

From: Norman K. McPhail (norm@SOCAL.WANET.COM)
Date: Fri Oct 06 2000 - 18:54:01 BST

  • Next message: Norman K. McPhail: "[pcp-discuss:] [Fwd: Scientific Modeling]"

    I thought some on this list might like to see an e-mail that was
    originally addressed to Elaine Morgan and Marc Verhaegen who are the
    leading proponents of a revolutionary hypothesis in the field of
    paleoanthropology that some call the Aquatic Ape Theory. They are
    clearly outsiders in this field and have experienced first hand many of
    the things that Bruce Edmonds was describing in the paper he posted here
    a few days ago for our comments and suggestions.

    You may also be interested to learn that both Elaine and Marc say that
    my summary of Bruce's thesis generally reflects their experience and
    perception of the process of change that is now taking place with the
    models of human evolution that scientists have traditionally used in the


    attached mail follows:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Norman K. McPhail <norm@socal.wanet.com>
    To: Marc Verhaegen <marc.verhaegen@village.uunet.be>; Elaine Morgan
    <elaine@desco.demon.co.uk>; Bruce Edmonds <b.edmonds@MMU.AC.UK>
    Date: Wednesday, October 04, 2000 7:17 PM
    Subject: Re: Scientific Modeling

    Marc, Elaine and Bruce:

    In response to the difficulty Marc said he had in interpreting the abstract
    notions in Bruce's paper, I offered to try to summarize it in the context of
    the gradual acceptance, over the past 40 years, of the aquatic ape theory.
    I'm sending this e-mail to Bruce because he may wish to expand, correct or
    modify my attempt to summarize and simplify his ideas.

    Dear Norman,

    Like Mark I am not very much at home on the philosophical level, but I am
    impressed by the extent to which as you point out the
    actual experience of trying to modify an existing paradigm does correspond
    very closely to the formula outlined in the "normal/revolutionary" scenario.
    I have read Kuhn \and I felt the same way about that. Either there or
     else I came across the statement that even when you find that a paradigm is
    probably flawed, it is better to carry on with using that template rather
    than to
    abandon it altogether. Because without some kind of of model to support
    or react against you don't know what facts to look for since you don't
    know what you are going to do with them.

    I do feel that some of the traditionalists are very wary of letting go of
    savanna theory altogether - though they may modify or re-name it -
    because they would feel as if they had lost the compass.

    I think Kuhn meant that it is better to have a flawed model than nothing.
    That would make sense if the alternative was nothing. But the alternative is
    In order to proceed as if the alternative was nothing they should logically
    first dispose of this awkward claimant . But apart from Tobias ( who
    says okay, let's look at it) and Langdon (who at least has a crack at
    finding holes in it) they resort to the tactics described in Bruce's
    list of signs.. Langdon resorts to some of them too.

    I have sometimes felt kind of guilty about this. It was an idea whose time
    had come.
    If I had not butted in, one of their own might have come up with it and they
    would have been less dismissive and could have come round to it by easy

    I am comforted by your point that sometimes it has to be an outsider.



    Posting to pcp-discuss@lanl.gov from "Norman K. McPhail" <norm@socal.wanet.com>

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