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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

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-The Context of Anecdotes and Anomalies

The most succinct criticism of postmodernist philosophy as applied to science that I have heard is this - that proponents confuse the context of discovery with the context of later justification. It occurred to me that the same is true of the role of both anecdotes and anomalies in science. Often when I criticize reliance on anecdotes or so-called anomaly hunting, I get feedback that makes the exact same confusion of context.

The context of discovery refers to how new ideas are generated in science. Playing off of Thomas Kuhn's work on paradigms (and without getting into a side discussion of Kuhn's own position), some post-modernists argued that science is a humanist-type of endeavor because scientists come up with their ideas in quirky and culturally contingent ways, rather than rigorous or methodical ways.

However, what makes science methodologically rigorous is not how new ideas are generated (the context of discovery) but how they are tested (the context of later justification).

It appears the choice is genetically modified or more pesticides, I know what I prefer, or do you think, after reading the article, it's a false dilemma. There is of course another option, no orange juice.

Amazing, isn't it? You think you're being smart buying "all-natural" (and, ahem, expensive) kitchen and bathroom cleaners, only to learn that the products might actually be nastier than the run-of-the-mill brands. The core of the problem is that there are no laws regulating green marketing, so a company can say its product is all-natural or non-toxic without having to prove anything or even disclose its ingredients on the bottle. A recipe for disaster--quite literally.



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