Sciences and their founders

Philip Goldstein pgold at
Wed Mar 22 05:45:06 MST 1995

	Paul gives me the following complaint: "It seems to be part of
a rather cavalier attitude towards the sciences that
allows one to say things like : post Einstein
Newton and Galileo are out the window, post
Althusser Marx goes out the window etc." Paul then proceeds to show that
aspects of Gallileo's and Newton's theories are retained and supported by
modern relativity theory. What's more, Paul says that everyone still uses
Newtonian theory for practical calculations. I find Paul's account,
despite its wonderful citations of historians, utterly ahistorical. One
would wonder why physicists ever develop new theories if the old ones are
just as good as the new ones. If I remember right, there were problems
with wave motion that Newton's theory couldn't explain and that
Einstein's theory could. Evidently those problems don't matter much to
the practical Paul, who only cares about the everyday calculations of
applied science, where Newton's laws work well enough, and does not care
about the theoretical issues posed by developments very far from everyday
life or by contemporary Marxism.

Philip GOldstein

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