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good science?

Martin Hewlett marty_hewlett at TIKAL.BIOSCI.ARIZONA.EDU
Wed Apr 26 15:11:57 EST 1995

>Do we really have to believe, on the strength of Saint Popper's claims,
>that the heliocentric hypothesis is not proven and "can never be 
>that on the contrary it's "only supported"?  Must we really believe 
>"unproven" that DNA contains the genetic material?  Do we really have 
>regard it as only "supported," not proven, that atoms exist?  If so, 
>this is a case of philosophic prejudice overwhelming empirical reality.  

Two of the examples you quote are quite interesting.  Before the 
Copernican revolution, the Ptolemeic view (geocentric) of the cosmos was 
viewed as "emprical reality."  In fact, there was nothing wrong with 
that model in that it explained the available data.  Likewise, before 
the experiments of Avery et al. and Hershey and Chase, "empirical 
reality" did not include the fact that DNA is the genetic material.  In 
fact an equally held possibility was that DNA was merely a scaffold upon 
which the genetic material (protein) was placed.

In each case a paradigm shift occurred such that our view of the world 
changed.  "Empirical reality," therefore, must be viewed by a scientist 
(that is, a true practitioner of the scientific method) with the kind of 
skepticism suggested by Popper.

Marty Hewlett
Dept. of Molecular and Cellular Biology
University of Arizona

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