Sunday, November 04, 2012

Velikovsky Redux

In Steven Shapin's review of The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe by Michael Gordin (LRB Vol 34, No 21, 35-38, 8 Nov 2012), he concludes:
A rule of thumb for sound inference has always been that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. But there’s a corollary: if it struts around the barnyard loudly protesting that it’s a duck, that it possesses the very essence of duckness, that it’s more authentically a duck than all those other orange-billed, web-footed, swimming fowl, then you’ve got a right to be suspicious: this duck may be a quack.
I think this is great advice for students attempting to collar a few books, collate the ideas therein, and collectivize them into an extended essay or two. Beware the self-proclaimed big ideas that claim to unify or to apotheosize existing ideas. And remember Velikovsky, who was probably better-read than you, had greater scope than you — and was likely more of a duck than you.

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1 Comments:

Blogger LoneRifle said...

Tangentially related: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_typing

Monday, November 05, 2012 4:47:00 am  

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