Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible


I am currently engaged in copyediting the English translations of a collected volume of history of science papers. The translations are mostly crappy and the English more than somewhat dubious. The result is that it is difficult, irritating, exasperating and at time down right shitty. The official deadline was 30 September but I am not to blame, as I had not even received the majority of the typescripts by then!

Add to this the fact that I am trying to cope with three different moderately serious physical health problems. The end result of all this is that my mental health is starting to deteriorate. I am currently even more of an aggressive, obnoxious arsehole than usual.

Conserving my mental health has been the number one priority in my life for a number of years now, so I have decided that I need to reduce the stress in my life. This means that I will not be blogging for the next couple of weeks. I am planning on being back for my usual Christmas trilogy if all goes well.

To keep you occupied in my absence you can offer your opinions on the following thoughts. The man who more than anyone else in responsible for the existence of this blog the Albino Aussie Anthropoid,TM John Wilkins, has once again tackled the problem of those that say , evolution is ‘just’ a theory.

I personally think that scientists and science communicators are themselves partially to blame. A theory is actually what the denialists think it is, a point of view, an idea, a standpoint, as in, “I don’t know why she left him but I have a theory.” The theory of evolution and all other scientific theories are just that they are scientific theories and not just theories; a scientific theory being a tested hypothesis that explains the given scientific facts. Scientist and science communicators need to stop being lazy and start saying scientific theory and not just sloppily saying theory.


Filed under Autobiographical

8 responses to “Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible

  1. Brigitte

    I hope you get better soon. It is amazing how a dip in physical health can produce a surge in almost forgotten mental health issues. Don’t overdo it.

  2. Carlos Torres

    Wish you a speedy recovery. Your writing will be missed!

  3. Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.

  4. Like the other commenters, I wish you a speedy recovery.

    Your point about the use of the term theory is well made. Before Popper and the Logical Positivists, there was the general idea that science went from hypothesis, through theory to law. So Avogadro’s hypothesis at the time was a reasoned guess – what we would colloquially call a theory – and became a law when the basis for it was explained using kinetic theory.

    The logical positivists tried to formalise this process by what they called verificationism, that the only meaningful statements are those verifiable by empirical observation. Popper overturned their applecart by arguing that no amount of verification could prove a theory, but a single observation could disprove it (falsificationism). While Popper’s original argument is no longer accepted, even falsification is a difficult process when a theory may be surrounded by auxiliary theories and an apparent falsification can be overcome by changing one or more of these (so the advance of perihelion of Mercury was originally ascribed to an unseen planet (Vulcan) before Einstein’s General Relativity explained it), the idea that all theories are only provisionally true is widely accepted.

    Coming to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the chief problem is that for almost everyone its name stops at that point. But when we look at the full title of his book “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” it is apparent that it is properly described as “The theory of evolution by means of natural selection” because Darwin appreciated that, given time, nature could achieve similar results to those that human breeders could achieve and which Darwin had seen for himself in the breeding of pigeons.

  5. clareangelabrown

    Hope everything calms down for you soon. All the best, Clare

  6. jrkrideau

    Best wishes.

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