[Marxism] Partisanship and Objectivity in Theoretical Work: Politics and natural science

Rod Holt rholt at planeteria.net
Fri Mar 24 09:36:56 MST 2006

I am puzzled by the pros & cons of "the great man theory" of anything. 
We recognize "great men and women" in the arts, literature, politics, 
and a whole host of other activities. I don't see anything specially 
either correct or incorrect about this.
Careless formulations, particularly capsulized history, frequently lead 
to misunderstandings, and, as expositors of the most profound and 
far-reaching social theory, we should be the most sensitive to the 
implications of formulations. I'm beginning to think that the great man 
theory of (whatever) is a formulation that invites everyone to take off 
in their own favorite direction without communicating the context and 
grounding of their launching pad.
Les is correct to show the development of nuclear physics as a process 
involving many curious and brilliant minds. Also part of this history is 
the mathematics that gave the physists an indispensable framework and 
Charles Brown is simply giving us a capsule formulation (an example) for 
the use of nominally neutral knowledge by the bourgeoise to destroy even 
civilization itself. This time, his capsule was too irritating to swallow.
BTW, Einstein was an astonishingly popular hero for Americans, and the 
association of his name with the atom bomb was very useful for the 
bourgeoisie to cloak their really ghastly use of this weapon.

Les Schaffer wrote:

>Charles Brown wrote:
>>Given the history of physics in the twentieth century, and the role of the
>>most profound discovery in physics - relativity and E = MC squared - to the
>>bourgeois misuse of this genius idea to originate the most horrific weapons
>>in the history of humanity
>i don't really see how Einstein's big idea of relativity contributed so
>directly to the bomb.
>people were playing with nuclear reactions independently of his work.
>historically, there was a whole branch of physics that took off at the
>very end of the 1800's -- nuclear physics -- with a complete set of its
>own questions and quandries. 

>but in fact, the energy of nuclear reaction emissions was observed first
>in experiments. in truth, we "knew" about nuclear energy before we even
>developed a good idea of what the nucleus really was. and that was due
>to a lot of people working in seemingly disparate fields for many many
>if there is any place to start giving up on "great person" science,
>maybe we should start here with the atomic bomb.
>les schaffer
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