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Re: [xml-dev] XML-DEV list - prior art

Jon Noring wrote:

> For a profession that adheres to the principles of science, scientists
> rarely practice what they preach -- to treat everything as a theory,
> and to be willing to change their theories as new evidence comes in.   A
> corollary of this is that all ideas are to be treated as equal when
> tendered.

It sounds as if you have a very naive picture of science and of 
epistemology. Not all ideas are equal or should be treated as such. Some 
  ideas have vastly more evidence behind them than others. For example, 
there's no reason for any rational scientist to waste a lot of time 
worrying about whether the earth is more or less than 5000 years old. 
There's a lot of evidence for one side of that question, and pretty much 
none for the other. Scientists have learned that paying attention to 
crackpots and zealots who believe the earth is only 5000 years old is a 
waste of their time.

It's nice that Hal Puthoff has the time to read journals in which 99% of 
the science is junk. I suppose someone should do it. Most scientists 
feel they have more productive ways to spend their time, though.

Scientists certainly are willing to change theories as evidence 
accumulates. However unlike a lot of novices and laypeople, they have a 
pretty good idea of what real evidence is and how to evaluate it. If any 
actual evidence for a proposition such as "The earth is only 5000 years 
old" were to appear, it could be considered, but it would have to be 
damn good evidence and it would have to be accompanied by some pretty 
convincing explanations of why all the other evidence is wrong.

> The reality is that science is a dog-eat-dog world where
> egos and emotions rule, not science. And having worked for 15 years in
> three DOE National Laboratories as a staff scientist (including LBL
> and LLNL), and had regular lunches with many of the Ph.D physicists
> and chemists there, I know what I speak of. In private, 95% of the
> conversation dealt with the human issues of ego clashes, personality,
> censorship of ideas, etc., and not with discussion of

The interesting thing is that despite the human issues, science does get 
done and the truth is found. Furthermore, once discovered the truth is 
pretty damn stable. Compare that to most other fields where we're still 
arguing about the same things the ancient Greeks were arguing about 
without a lot of notable progress.

Egos and emotions are involved, of course, but they do not rule. The 
ultimate arbiter of scientific truth is nature. Theories are maintained 
only to the extent that they are useful in describing nature. I've 
watched many theories go by the way side and be abandoned in my short 
time on this Earth. Most of them came and went very quickly, because 
they didn't fit the facts. The ones that last longer do fit the facts, 
at least to some extent. The question then becomes which theories fit 
the facts better, not which theories are the ultimate truth.

´╗┐Elliotte Rusty Harold  elharo@metalab.unc.edu
Java I/O 2nd Edition Just Published!

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