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100 Most Important Science Books

Nick Medford nick at hermit0.demon.co.uk
Fri Nov 12 21:44:39 EST 1999

In article <1g3X3.189967$5r2.430980 at tor-nn1.netcom.ca>, David Lloyd-
Jones <icomm5 at netcom.ca> writes
>Nick Medford <nick at hermit0.demon.co.uk> wrote
>> If you mean that one is more scientific than the other, I wouldn't agree.
>> terms of the intellectual activity involved, they seem pretty similar to
>> You catch your butterfly, check in a book to identify it, and label it
>> accordingly. Or- you get your stamp, check in a book....etc. Or does
>> butterfly collecting have other dimensions?
>I understand it does. For starters there are a whole lot of butterflies that
>aren't in your books, and part of the sport is hunting for them.
>How they get arranged in the books is determined by family resemblances,
>feeding habits, lineal heritances, etc. etc.

Sure. That's taxonomy, as practised by biologists. People who merely go
out and catch insects as a hobby aren't responsible for drawing up the
taxonomy. I suppose they may be able to contribute to it if they catch
something new. But after all, if a collector catches something not in his
bug book, what then? Suppose he invents a name for it, and assigns it a
place in the taxonomy, based on its resemblance or apparent relationship
to something already described. Is this science? Possibly, if his
classification is based on sound biological reasoning.  In which case a
stamp collector might be said to be practising science if he did
something similar with a rare stamp. Indeed, a hypothesis about the
origins of a stamp might well be more testable than a hypothesis about
the appropriate classification of a butterfly. 

> All of these are mere
>knowledge, I suppose, but then that's what science is.

No, science seeks to address the "why", not just the "what". I think this
is what Rutherford meant by "stamp collecting"- that too often people
deceive themselves into thinking they have explained something, when in
fact all they have done is given it a name.

The difference between anatomy and physiology is a good example.
Anatomy names the parts of the body and provides schemes for
classifying them, whereas physiology seeks to explain how they actually
function. Of course in practice the two disciplines necessarily co-exist.
>Today the butterfly collector could sneer that they are real scientists,
>while physicists have become nothing but dogmatists of idealist metaphysics.
>                                Cheers,
>                                   -dlj.

Nick Medford

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