Sunday, 8 June 2008

Reading `Trouble With Physics' the second time

As indicated on the front cover - `Read this book. Twice' - I went through L:ee Smolin's Trouble with physics again. And I found a nugget I have missed previously. It concerns the positioning of Science as social enterprise, as a very special social enterprise. Ethics of the scientific community that Smolin describes are very close to my heart. But there's one point I tend to disagree.
Membership in the community of science is open to any human being. Considerations of status, age, gender, or any other personal characteristic may not play a role in the consideration of a scientist's evidence and arguments, and may not limit a member's access to the means of dissemination of evidence, argument and information. Entry to the community is, however, based on two criteria. The first is the mastery of at least one of the crafts of a scientific subfield to the point where you can independently produce work judged by other members to be of high quality. The second criterion is allegiance and continued adherence to the shared ethic.

Well, formally I fulfill the first criterion - PhD in theoretical physics (however ancient) may be considered a sufficient proof of mastery of the craft. But in my little crusade for revival of amateur science I think of those who have only touched the scientific method and life during their studies. If we are able to promote their adherence to the scientific ethic, even when they do not produce the work judged to be `high quality', but just to spread the understanding and the ethic, would be a great and much needed success for science.

Anyway, the second reading was as much pleasure as the first one.