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Nick Medford nick at hermit0.demon.co.uk
Mon Nov 15 20:30:09 EST 1999

In article <m7yac0rka2.fsf at skaggs.bns.pitt.edu>, Bill Skaggs
<skaggs at bns.pitt.edu> writes
>Nick Medford <nick at hermit0.demon.co.uk> writes:
>> >I would like to point out that there are meaningful differences
>> >between butterfly collecting and stamp collecting.
>> >
>> Well, yeah.  For one thing, butterflies don't come with their own adhesive.
>> And it would be downright weird if stamps underwent metamorphosis.
>The distinction I had in mind is that butterflies are a product of
>nature, and collecting them can be a first step toward uncovering the
>regularities of nature (which I think is what Rutherford meant by
>"physics"), whereas stamps are a product of human bureaucracies and
>collecting them is not a first step toward anything particularly
>interesting, as far as I can see.

Sure, despite my flippant comments, I thought that's what you were driving
at. But I'm not sure I follow the logic. I accept, of course, that collecting
things from the natural world (butterflies, seashells, whatever) *may* lead to
scientific study. But equally, it may not. In the same way, collecting man-
made artefacts may also lead to scientific study, as archaeologists and
anthropologists would, I'm sure, agree. 

Your post also brings up a wider issue about the supposed division between
the 'natural' world and the man-made world. Since we are part of nature (a
point people often seem to forget when they eulogise all things 'natural'),
our works could reasonably be regarded as part of nature as well.  You
wouldn't describe a birds-nest as 'unnatural' because it's a constructed
artefact. This is a difficult area, and it may in the end boil down to a
question of what perspective one chooses to take.
>       -- Bill
Nick Medford

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