The thesis that scientists give greater weight to novel predictions than to explanations of known facts is tested against historical cases in physical science. Several theories were accepted after successful novel predictions but there is little evidence that extra credit was given for novelty. Other theories were rejected despite, or accepted without, making successful novel predictions. No examples were found of theories that were accepted primarily because of successful novel predictions and would not have been accepted if those facts had (...) been previously known. (shrink)
T. H. Morgan, A. H. Sturtevant, H. J. Muller and C. B. Bridges published their comprehensive treatise "The Mechanism of Mendelian Heredity" in 1915. By 1920 Morgan 's "Chromosome Theory of Heredity" was generally accepted by geneticists in the United States, and by British geneticists by 1925. By 1930 it had been incorporated into most general biology, botany, and zoology textbooks as established knowledge. In this paper, I examine the reasons why it was accepted as part of a series of (...) comparative studies of theory-acceptance in the sciences. In this context it is of interest to look at the persuasiveness of confirmed novel predictions, a factor often regarded by philosophers of science as the most important way to justify a theory. Here it turns out to play a role in the decision of some geneticists to accept the theory, but is generally less important than the CTH's ability to explain Mendelian inheritance, sex-linked inheritance, non-disjunction, and the connection between linkage groups and the number of chromosome pairs; in other words, to establish a firm connection between genetics and cytology. It is remarkable that geneticists were willing to accept the CTH as applicable to all organisms at a time when it had been confirmed only for Drosophila. The construction of maps showing the location on the chromosomes of genes for specific characters was especially convincing for non-geneticists. (shrink)
This is a comment on the paper by Barnes and the responses from Scerri and Worrall, debating the thesis that a fact successfully predicted by a theory is stronger evidence than a similar fact known before the prediction was made. Since Barnes and Scerri both use evidence presented in my paper on Mendeleev’s periodic law to support their views, I reiterate my own position on predictivism. I do not argue for or against predictivism in the normative sense that philosophers of (...) science employ, rather I describe how scientists themselves use facts and predictions to support their theories. I find wide variations, and no support for the assumption that scientists use a single ‘Scientific Method’ in deciding whether to accept a proposed new theory.Keywords: Predictivism; Novel predictions; Accommodation; Periodic law; Periodic table; Dmitri Mendeleev. (shrink)
A selective history of the benzene problem is presented, starting with August Kekulé's proposal of a hexagonal structure in 1865 and his hypothesis of 1872 that the carbon–carbon bonds oscillate between single and double. Only those theories are included that were accepted or at least discussed by a significant number of chemists. Special attention is given to predictions, their empirical tests, and the effect of the outcomes of those tests on the reception of the theories. At the end of the (...) period covered by this article, chemists generally accepted the valence bond theory proposed by Linus Pauling; some of them considered this a more sophisticated version of Kekulé's oscillation hypothesis. The sequel describes the replacement of the valence bond theory by the molecular orbital theory in the period ending around 1980. (shrink)
Research on thermal “black-body” radiation played an essential role in the origin of the quantum theory at the beginning of the twentieth century. This is a well-known fact, but historians of science up to now have not generally recognized that studies of radiant heat were also important in an earlier episode in the development of modern physics: the transition from caloric theory to thermodynamics. During the period 1830–50, many physicists were led by these studies to accept a “wave theory of (...) heat”, although this theory subsequently faded into obscurity. (shrink)
In the first part of the 19th century, geologists explained volcanoes, earthquakes and mountain-formation on the assumption that the earth has a large molten core underneath a very thin solid crust. This assumption was attacked on astronomical grounds by William Hopkins, who argued that the crust must be at least 800 miles thick, and on physical grounds by William Thomson, who showed that the earth as a whole behaves like a solid with high rigidity. Other participants in the debate insisted (...) that there is evidence for a fluid or plastic layer not far below the crust. It was also suggested that the interior of the earth is a supercritical fluid. By the end of the century many geologists had incorporated the doctrine of a completely solid earth into their theories. Acceptance of a relatively small liquid core, indicated by seismological research, was delayed for another two decades. (shrink)
The history of science has often been presented as a story of the achievements of geniuses: Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Darwin, Einstein. Recently it has become popular to enrich this story by discussing the social contexts and motivations that may have influenced the work of the genius and its acceptance; or to replace it by accounts of the doings of scientists who have no claim to genius or to discoveries of universal importance but may be typical members of the scientific community (...) at a particular time and place. In this article I consider a different type of story, which further research might reveal to be more common than we now suspect: progress stimulated by gadflies – outspoken critics who challenge the ideas of geniuses, forcing them to revise and improve those ideas, resulting in new knowledge for which the genius gets the credit while the gadfly is forgotten. (shrink)
The history of science and technology has been a scholarly discipline with little attention given to the special needs of undergraduate teaching. What needs to be done to transform a discipline to an undergraduate subject? Suggestions include using the relation between science and technology as well as the role of interpreters in formulation of the popular world view. Relations with science and history departments are considered. Curriculum materials are surveyed with some recommendations for correcting deficiencies.