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Although the wrong theories contributed to scientific evolution

  1. Apr 11, 2014 #1
    Dear friends,

    I am writting a simple essay about the mechanisms of scientific evolutions, where I would like to point out the main driving forces that induce scientific progress.

    I would like to give simple examples from history of science (e.g Physics, Astrophysics, Mathematics, etc.) where scientific results though not fully confirmed by the subsequent research, they however maintained some validity or opened new avenues for the improvement of scientific theory.

    I would appreciate your help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 11, 2014 #2

    Ken G

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    Nice topic. My initial comment would be you won't have to look far to find examples of what you are talking about-- it applies to the entire history of scientific discovery! Every single step in the progress of science is just what you are talking about, there are no exceptions, unless you count the things we think we "know" today-- in defiance of the entire history of our own art. Science only ever "fully confirms" one thing-- the usefulness and value of its theories. A theory can be confirmed to be useful, that is the highest aspiration we can hope to achieve in science. Any more is hubris, and we should know better by now.

    In other words, what I'm saying is, instead of seeking special examples of wrong theories that helped the advancement of science, why not just look at all the major stages of scientific growth, every "big" theory that came along bar none, and then go back and analyze why we should not regard that theory as "fully confirmed" as truth. Engineering is about what is confirmed-- science is about what is not confirmed.
  4. Apr 11, 2014 #3


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    In engineering, the functionality of end products is of vital importance. This tends to make engineers highly pragmatic and highly critical of untested ideas. If you engineer products that fail to meet expectations, the product does not sell, the company does not make money, and engineers get fired. In science, you take a lot less heat for creative ideas that do not pan out. The science of astronomy owes its existence to astrology - a cornucopia of superstitious nonsense. Chemistry originated from alchemy - another bad idea. Medical science was founded by shamans and witch doctors - who greatly contributed to our knowledge of what is useless and even kills people. Historically, flailing in the dark based on delusional ideas has immensely benefited scientific advance, but, sucks for engineers.
  5. Apr 11, 2014 #4


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