View Single Post
Jun11-05, 08:12 AM
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,230
Quote Quote by arivero
... he seems to interpret that the important point of the article were the constructive proposals ...but note that Smolin himself disminishes the literal importance of such proposals by using the reference to Jonathan Swift's 1729 essay.
Like you, I also heard the faint echo of Swift's despairingly bitter satire "A Modest Proposal".

Anyone who has not already read the Swift essay might want to have a look

an alternative (of the many versions on the web)

Despite the echo of Swift's title, I think Smolin made all his proposals seriously. I do not think any of them were intended ironically.

Indeed, if there is any irony (and perhaps you are right that there is some, which I just did not hear at first) then it is that the three of them I quoted shouldn't even have to be proposed.

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't diversity in academic departments---representing rival theories---a time-honored practice? Didn't used to be quite normal for an active department head, wanting to build up a department and improve its standing, to bring in strong representatives of alternative theoretical lines? This was my impression from casually observing of a few departments in US universities (can't say I ever paid really close attention). Please let me know if you have a different impression of academic norms.

If the aim was a department with a strong national reputation then rather than consisting of all one dominant breed of theorist it needed more to resemble the PRIVATE ZOO of rare beasts assembled by some wealthy Victorian gentleman.

I do think that there are successful contemporary examples of this (but you Alejandro would know better which they are, London Imperial, Marseille, Cambridge, Lyon, Potsdam, Utrecht, British Columbia, Rome, Penn State...?) but balanced theoretically diverse departments are currently rare in the US, to our considerable misfortune.