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Darwinners and Dar Losers On:2009-02-05 17:21:40

As if us left-wing, science-mad intellectuals weren't getting enough of that old jollies-stuff this year from having the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Rabbie Burns , the four hundredth of Galileo Galilei 's first scoping out of the sky (not to mention ditto of the publication of Kepler's Astronomia nova ), and the eight hundredth anniversary of Cambridge University ; as of the Glorious Twelfth1 of this month, our cup is positively runnething over for all it's worth (and no doubt sloppething all over the carpet) with the two hundredth birthday of Charles Darwin and the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the publication of his Origin of Species---

And since I am the relative epitome of left-wing, science-mad intellectuals I have no choice but to commemorate it, but I certainly don't want to do so with all the usual boring same-ole stuff---y'know ... attaching blue commemorative plaques to my broadcast or nominating my every mention of him for World Heritage Site status2, so instead of that sort of rubbish I thought this would be a good time, and a really, really appropriate one too, to dispel some lies about truth: or to avoid being so oxymoronic or, for that matter, extreme, to come over all epistemological.

You see the upholders of truth, you know truth, Truth, with a capital "Tr" often have difficulty with the fact that science (or at least scientists) can never make up its (nor their) mind about the universe, and keeps (or keep) changing all the bloody time; and since Truth with a capital "Tr" is so often considered revealed, (and when so exposed is further considered as the cat's pajamas of dogma) and is viewed as absolute and well ... quite frankly true, so that it doesn't like to change much because it HAS made up its mind. And you can't have one absolute revealed Truth on a Tuesday and a different one next Thursday week, 'cause people might object.

Whereas science is the complete opposite, in fact if you don't have 'New Improved Scientific Truth' at reasonably frequent intervals then people will start grumbling about the end of science and your research grant money is going to dry up. But of course there's no danger of that, indeed for the whatever vague count of years, or centuries, or millennia during which science has evolved out of whatever it evolved out of, the one constant has been its lack of constants---well apart from Planck's, and Hubble's, and Newton's, and of course the speed of light in vacuo, and... and... and ... well, OK, it has a lot of constants, and it also, mostly, tries for consistency; but it's constancy that it lacks. I mean some scientist gets a grant and works hard and has some luck and some facts and publishes and for a bit it's all "Hail theory well met!" and then some other absolute bugger of a scientist comes along with some new stuff and it's into the rubbish bin, or at least into the re-cycling, with all that hard work and the original scientist can only sit on the side-lines and slowly go green.

And it's not just the small stuff---stuff about snails tails or fruit fly's buttocks, no! even the biggies get nobbled.
Take Newton's theory of gravitation---in an age that has to take into account the time dilation of satellites speeding about the earth and Relativity is king (well when it's not scrapping with Quantum), even poor Newton has to admit that everything in Science is provisional and that even Protons (Um... probably) have a shelf life.

So, since Scientific Truth is so provisional and temporary, and only really counts towards the advancement of Science as it is being disproved, now that Darwin is so firmly established, there is no way up for him but out and I, for one, can hardly wait for him to be superceded, though one should always bear in mind that great theories like his or Newton's do always remain true, but only for certain values of truth.

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton


1 Glorious Twelfth not to be confused with the twelfth of any other month (so no grousing about that of August nor any drumming up of protests around that of July )

2 The usual boring same-ole stuff and of course hohum

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