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Thread: greatest scientific mistakes in history

  1. #1 greatest scientific mistakes in history 
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    Is anyone willing to help pool these results?


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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Since arguably all the errors in thinking led to the development of more insightful thinking, I find it difficult to view these as mistakes, rather than necessary steps in the scientific process.


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    Sounds like circular thought to me that depends on hope.

    Correct me if I am wrong.
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    Sorry about the second post, but I hate offending.

    You were sincere, right?
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    A good point has been made. We learn by our mistakes. Thus, mistakes are not backward steps, but part of the learning process.
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    (more politicians should use posts like this)
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Since arguably all the errors in thinking led to the development of more insightful thinking, I find it difficult to view these as mistakes, rather than necessary steps in the scientific process.
    That's true, but most scientific theories are modified by improvements, expansions, and figuring out that they were true given only certain assumptions and need to be broadened (e.g. Newton's laws, Darwin's ideas about evolution). The original theory, isn't so much a mistake as subsumed into better understanding sciences.
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  9. #8  
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    Albert Einstein:

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe."
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  10. #9  
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    I would start with The politics of women's biology by Ruth Hubbard. She lays out some impressive scientific mistakes in the history of biology.
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theQuestIsNotOver View Post
    Sorry about the second post, but I hate offending.

    You were sincere, right?
    I was neither sincere, nor insincere. I was objective and (I suspect) accurate. Sincerity would imply an emotional commitment to the conclusion.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Since arguably all the errors in thinking led to the development of more insightful thinking, I find it difficult to view these as mistakes, rather than necessary steps in the scientific process.
    Well said that man !
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Since arguably all the errors in thinking led to the development of more insightful thinking, I find it difficult to view these as mistakes, rather than necessary steps in the scientific process.
    Not quite. I suspect that "all" the errors in scientific thinking is painting with too broad a brush. Probably all in areas like maths, physics, chemistry, cosmology, much less than 'all' in areas like biology, behaviour, psychology, medicine. More insightful thinking in these areas has come as often from social and political focus or reexamination of some scientific claims.

    It's easy enough to see scientific progress as fairly steadily proposing, improving or discarding theories in physical sciences - phlogiston anyone? But much harder to see anything approaching even common sense in some of the florid rationalisations of presumptions and prejudices in the so-called 'scientific' biological or other investigations of mere decades ago of racial or gender or behavioural matters. Phrenology to identify or confirm criminality? The Oedipus complex? IQ differences?
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    I draw your attention the precise construction of the opening clauses.

    First, the use of the word arguably. I do not argue this, I simply point out that this could be argued and imply that such argumentation would be valid, though not necessarily correct.

    Second, the error of phlogiston theory, for example, led to the recognition of the existence of what came to be called oxygen and the mechanism of combustion. I don't think it can be reasonably denied that the errors did lead to more insightful thinking. The second set of clauses are clearly the expression of an opinion as revealed by the words "I....view". Opinions are not really worth commenting on, but that's just an opinion.
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    Astrology? Of course, today we might not consider it a science at all, but a pagan deterministic religion. I suppose we should define our terms a bit. What we consider "science" today and what passed muster back in the day are certainly different things.
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