WR Fossilised thoughts

Posted: 1th September 2019

This weeks reading is Fossils with Feathers and Philosophy of Science, an academic paper by Joyce C. Havstad & N. Adam Smith. This was a fun mix of two interesting topics: on the one hand, how can you classify "Good Science" Vs. "Bad Science" (not to be confused with "Science" Vs "Non-Science" à la Karl Popper); on the other hand "Are birds descended from dinosaurs?" (or do they come from "basal archosaurs"?).

I'm neither a paleontologist nor a biologist so can't really assess the latter topic (which has apparently been going on for a long time) although it's very interesting. The former topic, what differentiates "good, from bad, science?", is very interesting[1]. The core difference (according to the authors, building on the work of one Imre Lakatos) is the split of progressive and degenerative projects of study. Is the collection of evidence, hypothesis, postulates adding to itself; are those postulates adding to the sum of what is known or merely warping the original ideas to match the evidence? The main concept here is whether the new evidence adds to a so-called "protective belt" around the core of the study or not (I think).

Anyway, it's a long read but I really enjoyed it and the above summary doesn't do it justice so you should go read it too.