Off-topic: bad history of science

Posted by Christie Malry on November 28, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Demetrius writes this on Ritchie's blog, in support of the (erroneous) idea that a good hard look at the data is sufficient to disprove Laffer:

There was a time when the belief that the sun went round the earth was irrefutable. Then someone took a good hard look at the figures.

I'm sorry, but this is wrong. The way in which we look at and interpret figures is a function of our scientific knowledge. So it's actually pretty difficult to move from an inaccurate, wrong theory to a new, more accurate one because we have so much invested in the old way of doing things.

It's also patronising to portray mediaeval scientists as being so stupid that they would willingly overlook hard evidence that their theories were wrong. Their theories did adequately fit the evidence that was available. In fact, it could be argued that their theories were better at explaining the evidence than some of Copernicus's half-baked formulations.

For more on this, see The Copernican Revolution by Thomas Kuhn.

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