[ExI] Skeptic magazine article "The Case for Incrementalism in the Future of Science"

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sat Jun 30 22:44:20 UTC 2007

On 6/30/07, John Grigg wrote:
> The latest issue of the Skeptic has an article entitled "The Case for
> Incrementalism in the Future of Science" by Mordechai Ben-Ari.  I considered
> it a second-rate work which tried without sufficient explanation to show how
> science would continue to steadily plug away rather than take off in an
> exponential way dear to the hearts of Transhumanists.  I felt this was one
> of the worst written and thought out articles I have ever read in the
> Skeptic and was amazed it was ever accepted and published by Shermer and his
> editors.  Has anyone else here read this? What did you think?

I haven't read the article but it reminds me of the controversial 1996
book 'The End of Science' by John Horgan.
In a series of interviews with luminaries of modern science,
Scientific American senior editor John Horgan conducted a guided tour
of the scientific world and where it might be headed in The End of
Science. The book, which generated great controversy and became a
bestseller, now appears in paperback with a new afterword by the
author. Through a series of essays in which he visits with such
figures as Roger Penrose, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Freeman
Dyson, and others, Horgan captures the distinct personalities of his
subjects while investigating whether science may indeed be reaching
its end.
End quote.

He revisited his thesis in a 2006 lecture here:
where he tries to answer the most usual objections.

And in his blog he made further comments:

Many of his critics reacted violently to his suggestion that science
might be running out of frontiers, but he isn't a fool. He makes an
arguable case for caution about the future of science.

He summed it up in a final statement:

So let me be more blunt in my advice to would-be scientists:
    "By all means become a scientist. But don't think you're going to
top Newton or Darwin or Einstein or Watson/Crick by discovering
something as monumental as gravity or natural selection or quantum
mechanics or relativity or the double helix, because your chances are
slim to none. The era of those sorts of big discoveries is over. Also,
don't go into particle physics! Especially don't waste your time on
string theory, or loop-space theory, or multi-universe theories, or
any of the other pseudo-scientific crap in physics and cosmology that
we science journalists love so much. And don't follow Steve Wolfram
and other chaoplexologists chasing after a unified theory of
matter-life-consciousness-everything-under-the-sun. That's as futile
as trying to prove the existence of God. Pick a real-world problem
that you have some chance of resolving, preferably in a way that
improves peoples' lives. Do something useful with your talent! We need
your help."


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