challenging paradigms, changing minds

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Lee Harris attacked Chris Mooney's Republican Brain, taking issue with conservatives being labeled anti-science. He strives mightily to portray conservatives as the real scientific heroes of his tale, using the paradigmatic example of Johannes Kepler:

If anti-science means challenging the scientific consensus of one's own epoch, then all the great scientists of the past have been anti-science. As the historian and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn has demonstrated, every scientific revolution begins by overturning the dominant scientific paradigm of its time.

Of course, simply challenging the dominant scientific paradigm of the day does not necessarily make you a great scientist. It may simply make you a crackpot.

Is it just coincidental that conservatives' favorite crackpots merely reinforce their pre-existing beliefs? How convenient. The scientific beliefs supported by liberals, by contrast, have better explanatory and predictive value and comport more closely with the best available evidence instead of following the line of industry-funded propaganda. As a rebuttal to Harris, Chris Mooney published this guest post by Dylan Otto Krider:

The problem with [Harris'] argument is that if you take the greatest scientific revolutionaries of the past couple hundred years - Darwin and Einstein - far from being persecuted, they were hailed by the scientific communities in their lifetimes.

He demolishes the key defense by asking "why is Kepler revered?"

Because despite his most deeply held convictions, and despite the years of denial, in the end Kepler did the difficult thing, the courageous thing, really: based on the evidence, he abandoned his religious conviction. [...]

Kepler is not revered for his Republican brain because of its "deep resistance to yielding before mere scientific evidence." He is revered because when confronted with contrary evidence, his Republican brain did a very un-Republican thing: it changed.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on May 4, 2012 8:38 AM.

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