[This is the sixth post in a series on plate tectonics and an interdimensional Earth change network. See previous posts in the series: Close Encounters; The Holler's Seismic Neighborhood; My Seismic Awakening to Plate Tectonics; Connecting the Interdimensional Dots; Growing into an Earth Change Network]
In this post, I want to talk about my explorations of both plate tectonics and hieronics in relation to the nature of science as a field, and how a scientific idea comes to be accepted or rejected.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my inspiration to learn more about plate tectonics came at a time when the theory of continental drift was still new and earth sciences were in a state of -- according to geophysicist Allan Cox -- "intellectual ferment”. For geologists, accepting the idea of continental drift had required a major deconstruction of older ideas about the Earth and subsequent reconstruction of earth science.
A few years ago I happened upon the work of Naomi Oreskes, a science historian who wrote The Rejection of Continental Drift. Her ideas have been especially helpful as I explore the well-anchored science of plate tectonics, and the emerging science of hieronics.
Historian of science and science studies scholar Naomi Oreskes, during a presentation at the 2008 History of Science Society meeting [Photo credit: Ragesoss]
In her book, Oreskes traces the evolution of the theory of continental drift, its acceptance by some scientists -- especially in Europe -- and its initial vigorous dismissal by a large number of American scientists:
The thesis of this book is that American earth scientists rejected the theory of continental drift not because there was no evidence to support it (there was ample), nor because the scientists who supported it were cranks (they were not), but because the theory, as widely interpreted, violated deeply held methodological beliefs and valued forms of scientific practice.
Her conclusion, says Oreskes, is that "science is not about belief; it is about how belief gets formulated":
At any given moment, only a finite set of knowledge satisfies the reigning criteria for the formulation of scientific belief, and only this knowledge is eligible as truth. But the discriminating criteria are historically contingent; over time and across communities, they shift, they evolve, they are overthrown, they transmute. The changing criteria for the formulation of belief provide the pathways through which cultural context delimits the boundaries of scientific knowledge.
I like Oreskes’ thoughts here because they resonate with my personal process of discovery with both plate tectonics and hieronics. I’ll share more about this in my final post for this series.
In closing this post, I’d like to share some videos, one that illustrate the current thinking about plate tectonics, and talks by Naomi Oreskes and Rupert Sheldrake that bring up interesting questions about scientific beliefs and how they get formulated.
First, a brief summary of current thinking about plate tectonics:
In the next video, Naomi Oreskes presents some important ideas about the nature of scientific knowledge, how false theories can make true predictions, the problem of auxiliary hypotheses that may be based on false assumptions, and consensus as authority in science:
And finally, here's The Science Delusion, the banned TED Talk presented by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, who writes in Science Set Free (originally published in the UK as The Science Delusion) that dogmatic ideology, fear-based conformity and institutional inertia are inhibiting scientific creativity. (Kindle edition, p.4)
Response to Sheldrake's ideas have parallels to what early continental drift theorists encountered. For me, what Sheldrake addresses in the video and in Science Set Free lends greater insight into the evolution of scientific theories of continental drift and plate tectonics. His work also informs my exploration of hieronics and suggests, I think, some of the changes that would have to happen for it to become integrated into the whole of science on Earth as plate tectonics has.