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History of the discarded scientific theories.

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pinguin View Drop Down
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    Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 01:09
Something that fascinates me are the out-of-fashion and discarded scientific theories.

If anyone would like to talk about these, please do. Some of the discarded theories I remember are:

(1) Flat Earth.
(2) Geocentrism.
(3) Spontanous generation of life.
(4) Lamarckian evolution.
(5) Phlogiston
(6) Aether
(7) Greek optics (the rays go from the eyes to the object LOL)
(8) Aristotelian physics
(9) Creationism
(10) Astral influences on societies and people.

I just must to recall that all these theories were once considered scientific fact.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 07:59
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Something that fascinates me are the out-of-fashion and discarded scientific theories.

If anyone would like to talk about these, please do. Some of the discarded theories I remember are:

(1) Flat Earth.
(2) Geocentrism.
(3) Spontanous generation of life.
(4) Lamarckian evolution.
(5) Phlogiston
(6) Aether
(7) Greek optics (the rays go from the eyes to the object LOL)
(8) Aristotelian physics
(9) Creationism
(10) Astral influences on societies and people.

I just must to recall that all these theories were once considered scientific fact.


Though I thank such a discussion could be  a good idea there is some questions to the list, since ideas are included that should not be regarded as scientific at all, even not in an "extended" sense. Here I look in particular at the first, the "flat earth". That "everobody took it for granted" does not make it in any way "scientific" or  "philosophical", not even a "thought" - on the contrary. We could pay some respect, perhaps even admiration, for real scientific or philosophical ideas, that later turned out not to "fit reality", or in other ways being hard to maintain. I think the word "outdated", or "oldfashioned" may be something seen in a too negative light. I think the "outdated" at least may have been relevant in the past - at least it was not necessarily absurd, foolish, to be rejected, from the beginning.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 13:30
Sure. Certainly I agree with you.
However, I am pretty sure as well that when new theories are tough to students, usually it is by making fun about how wrong the early theory was.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 13:35
Certainly phlogiston and the ether deserve acceptance as scientific, even though discarded. In fact theories involving negative mass (phlogiston) and a pervasive medium, filling space (ether) persist in very modified form today.
 
In general, where a theory is discarded as the result of measurements being made more accurately (Aristotelian physics, Newtonian physics) it doesn't mean the theories were unscientific.
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Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 13:54
Your observations are entirely correct, Fantasus. Perhaps it is the ridiculous opening and all the jazz about "Flat Earth" despite the constant debunking of the notion on this very forum. Likewise, I also agree that perhaps an analysis of the topic would be interesting, but only if it respects the thought processes of the original proponents of what were primarily valid "scientific" constructs within the realm of explanatory Theory. For example, "Greek Optics" can hardly be assessed as a "discredited theory" unless you want to be crazily Platonic.
 
e.g.
 
 
Similarly, one must be ready to recognize that the parameters for discussion fall within the Early Modern World and later so that such can hardly be assigned to the "Ancients" despite all of the Greek names bandied such as Aether.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 14:06
Dr. Gonzaga.
By "greek optics" I meant the theory that explained the physics of sight. Mainly, Empedocles idea, that was dominant at the time:

In the fifth century BC, Empedocles believed that Aphrodite made the human eye out of the four elements and that she lit the fire in the eye which shone out from the eye making sight possible.

Also, in yours own link about Greek optics you can read (please read your own sources)

Plato says that that the soul is the source of vision that is possible from light rays emitted from the eyes. The question is why we cannot see nothing in a completely dark room?

Greeks optics was reformed during the Middle Ages by Islamic and Christian scientists, and was one of the earliest topics of the Greek knowledge that needed fixing.

With respect to "Flat Earth", that was a very scientific and good "approximation" to reality for peoples that didn't travel too much in the ancient past. You only discover "rounded" earth when the civilizations started to spread to a larger fraction of the world. In fact, Eratostenes was the first guy that found a "proof" that the earth was round!





Edited by pinguin - 02 Oct 2011 at 14:15
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 15:11
Pinguin, with respect to "reading", you need to be quite careful yourself or did you not grasp the implications of the unless phrase I utilized. Only a queer bird would discuss Plato and Science in the same breath. The issue here remains valid: Your postulates on the theoretical are flawed as Fantasus properly noted.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 15:42
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Pinguin, with respect to "reading", you need to be quite careful yourself or did you not grasp the implications of the unless phrase I utilized. Only a queer bird would discuss Plato and Science in the same breath. The issue here remains valid: Your postulates on the theoretical are flawed as Fantasus properly noted.


The difference between Science and Phylosophy is modern, as you well know. I was simply listing discarded theories along all the history of knowledge from the beginnings, without distinction. You very well know that Kepler was also an astrologist, so these modern prejudices about putting "holy" science appart from the rest don't apply.

Greeks simply had a very naive way to understand the physics of optics.

And with respect to modern science, remember that the show business of science at prime time educational TV, is pretty pathetic as well. Watch Kaku to have an idea.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 16:28
I do not "watch" Kaku and for the very same reasons Sagan was "off the wall". There is a very valid distinction between Media Popularizers and actual Scientific Investigation and Analysis. As for Kepler, for goodness sakes in the evolution of scientific observation at least respect the implications of process. Before chemsitry there was alchemy but such does not discredit Tycho Brahe. Of course, these diversions do litter the Internet aether.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 17:08
Why to discredit ancient scientists just because they had rudimentary science?

I remember once, your idol, Carl Sagan, had the bad taste to criticize Claudio Ptolmey, accusing him of founding "astrology". Sagan perhaps ignored that astrology was "invented" in ancient Sumer.
Sagan also forgot that, although Ptolmey was a geocentrist, he was a superb mathematician that created a cosmical model with the best mathematical tools available at his times.
By contrast to Ptolmey, what Sagan left us? Only his love for Seti, and a pathetic theory that the universe is full of green martian-like beings.




Edited by pinguin - 02 Oct 2011 at 17:10
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 17:15

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 17:20
Lamarckism was neither considered as scientific fact nor been completely disproved.
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/288/5463/38.full


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 17:27
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Why to discredit ancient scientists just because they had rudimentary science?

I remember once, your idol, Carl Sagan, had the bad taste to criticize Claudio Ptolmey, accusing him of founding "astrology". Sagan perhaps ignored that astrology was "invented" in ancient Sumer.
Sagan also forgot that, although Ptolmey was a geocentrist, he was a superb mathematician that created a cosmical model with the best mathematical tools available at his times.
By contrast to Ptolmey, what Sagan left us? Only his love for Seti, and a pathetic theory that the universe is full of green martian-like beings.
 
 
How that follows from what I wrote defies all logic. What can I say Penguin other than you had best brush up on your Shakespeare and the Queen's English!
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 17:33
Originally posted by Anton Anton wrote:


l
Good one Anton, the greatest set of equations anywhere in the world. Wouldn't have a job right now if it weren't for these babies!
 
Anyway, you forgot two important theories, Calorie and vital force.
 
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Edited by Al Jassas - 02 Oct 2011 at 17:36
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 17:41
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

What can I say Penguin



If you don't know what to say, please say nothing. LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 17:55
Parse this sentence:
 
I do not "watch" Kaku and for the very same reasons Sagan was "off the wall".
 
How such converts Sagan into "my idol", to quote the vernacular, simply does not compute.
 
Anyway, when encountering intellectual sloppiness bordering on criminality it is contingent for the reasonable man to speak out.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 18:00
It was a joke. I read yours sentence and I knew what you though about Sagan. Now, I'll go back to the topic, so excuse me.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 21:25
In one fascinating book I read some years ago, "The End of Science", it was discussed if we are not near the "perfection" of most sciences - a point were we can not expect further major progress. Such an idea seems open to discussion, but if scientists reach a point were they stop to find major flaws in the teories, or in other words they stop to falsify their predictions there is a possibility they are near "perfection" (except there may always be minor, trivial discoveries to be made). A situation were there is little or no room further progress (of course only an interesting idea).

Edited by fantasus - 03 Oct 2011 at 11:35
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 23:16
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

In one fascinating book I read some years ago, "The End of Science", it was discussed if we are not near the "perfection" of most sciences - a point were we can not expect further major progress. Such an idea seems open to discussion, but if scientists reach a point were they stop to find major flaws in the teories, or in other words they stop to falsify their predictions there is a possibility they are near "perfection" (except there may always be minor, trivial discoveries to be made). A situatrion were there is little or no room further progress (of course only an interesting idea).



What makes you (or the authors) thinking that scientists falsify their predictions? Mistakes usually come from misinterpretation of the available data, not falsifications. Falsifications are quite rare.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 23:16
Well, considering the current state of physics alone, among all the other sciences, it is quite clear there is quite a lot of job to do before that science reaches perfection.
The old image that Newton once said about the state of knowledge still applies today.

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
— Sir Isaac Newton
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2011 at 23:18
Originally posted by Anton Anton wrote:


What makes you (or the authors) thinking that scientists falsify their predictions? Mistakes usually come from misinterpretation of the available data, not falsifications. Falsifications are quite rare.


Also, mistakes comes from misinterpretations of available theories. The real great scientists don't forget that theories are only working tools, and that are not the actual revealed Truth that some public believes they are.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Oct 2011 at 00:42
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:


Also, mistakes comes from misinterpretations of available theories. The real great scientists don't forget that theories are only working tools, and that are not the actual revealed Truth that some public believes they are.


Actually, majority of scientists do not forget that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Oct 2011 at 06:02

lol, Anton.
Great set of equations there.

Good point about Lamarkism too. It is far from dead or disproved. Neo-Lamarkism may yet trump Darwinism.

Quote Certainly phlogiston and the ether deserve acceptance as scientific, even though discarded.

I have a textbook about Wireless Direction Finding from shortly after the first world war that begins by describing how radio waves propagate through the ether.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Oct 2011 at 09:25
I don't think it will trump Darwinism, but it there are indications that it may actually complement Darwinism in some aspects. There is not enough proof yet though. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Oct 2011 at 12:04
Originally posted by Anton Anton wrote:

Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

In one fascinating book I read some years ago, "The End of Science", it was discussed if we are not near the "perfection" of most sciences - a point were we can not expect further major progress. Such an idea seems open to discussion, but if scientists reach a point were they stop to find major flaws in the teories, or in other words they stop to falsify their predictions there is a possibility they are near "perfection" (except there may always be minor, trivial discoveries to be made). A situatrion were there is little or no room further progress (of course only an interesting idea).



What makes you (or the authors) thinking that scientists falsify their predictions? Mistakes usually come from misinterpretation of the available data, not falsifications. Falsifications are quite rare.
I interpreted the author (John Horgan) in that way (that the fall of major scientific theories are at least in part a consequence of experiments and observations giving unexpected data  for the dominant theory). Since I read it some years ago I may have misinterpreted the book (data) though.
Another thing, important for this discussion (so we don´t misunderstand each other). My premise, and Horgans if I have not totally missed his point, is that we can separate "great theories" - and insights - from "minor" ones. for me the premise for this discussion is that it is primarily about discarded "great" theories, though I admit i cannot say it more precisely.  So, trillions of minor mistakes that comes from misinterpretations of data matters only so far they add up to false
"general pictures". If they are "corrected" immediately they are less relevant I think.  (I can say I am at the moment working with "minor data", though not as a scientist in the usual sense.)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Oct 2011 at 00:44
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

Good point about Lamarkism too. It is far from dead or disproved. Neo-Lamarkism may yet trump Darwinism.

Only after the "holed earth" tesis is finally proven LOL

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