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Old 07-07-2019, 04:36 PM
 
3 posts, read 101 times
Reputation: 10

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So, I recently made a video on 19th-century mathematician Georg Cantor and the opposition he faced for his (at the time) radical ideas, which made his life quite difficult (link posted to video in "spoiler" for those interested):
Spoiler




It got me thinking about other petty situations that have arisen in the sciences. The two that come to mind are the following:
- Newton-Leibniz debate (obvious one), in which Leibniz end-of-life was spent defending his conception of calculus
- Emmy Noether, who despite her being utterly brilliant and making fundamental contributions algebra and foundational physics, faced resistance because she was a woman


Do you guys have other instances that come to mind?

Last edited by Moderndaymath; 07-07-2019 at 04:38 PM.. Reason: Explained reason for "spoiler"
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Old 07-07-2019, 05:07 PM
 
671 posts, read 146,409 times
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Scientific advances have always met with resistance.

First, the scientific establishment resists them. This is not a bug but a feature - new hypotheses/theories need to be validated, and putting them through the wringer of doubt leads to their eventual acceptance or, more often, rejection - most are dead ends. Either way, science has worked.

Second, scientific developments are inevitably going to step on toes. Someone's social outlook is going to be offended, someone's dogma is going to be contradicted, someone's politics are going to be challenged, and perhaps worst of all, someone's pocketbook is going to take a hit. And nothing upsets the forces of inertia more than the possibility that their profit margin is going to be upset.

Examples? They're endless.

*Common descent via evolution, of course, has been met - and still is - with fierce religious opposition, because it challenges ideas on the age of the Earth as well as the idea that Homo sapiens are some sort of special entity separate from animals.

*In the USSR, Lysenkoism prevailed over Mendelian inheritance because it was a better fit with Marxist ideology, in that it claimed individual achievement can alter one's genetic legacy.

*The dangers of smoking were rejected by those who didn't want to quit smoking and/or found it to hard to do so, and by the industry that was making a fortune in tobacco (and knew their bottom line would suffer if they admitted that their product was dangerous).

*The cognitive powers of all races have been decried by persons of other races who have a vested interest in their race being considered superior.
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Old Yesterday, 05:52 PM
 
3 posts, read 101 times
Reputation: 10
You list some great examples up there, especially the smoking bit. It reminds of how lead was ruining everything for a good portion on the 20th century. The man how was basically the PR guy for lead would dip his arm in the stuff to show how safe it is, and then later vigorously scrub himself down as he had experienced led poisoning in the past and thus knew how terrible it was.


Anyway, I understand the speculative mentality and difficulty to change. It was more the "i'm going to ruin your entire life" mentality I was thinking about (which you address in Second...). Egotism is far more of a detriment to growth than being just a tad more sensitive about how you respond to someone's work. Though I don't know who this happened to, I remember the following story from years ago: a physicist spent about a decade on obtaining some result in hydrodynamics (if I recall correctly) and was basically laughed out of a presentation he was giving on his result. I think this basically ruined his career as no one could take his work seriously anymore and he killed himself. A few years after his death, his result was shown true.

Last edited by Moderndaymath; Yesterday at 05:53 PM.. Reason: typos
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Old Yesterday, 10:03 PM
 
Location: Backwoods of Maine
7,110 posts, read 8,147,355 times
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I understand that Galileo was jailed for having the temerity to suggest that the earth revolved around the sun, not the opposite as was believed at the time. Heresy!
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Old Today, 03:43 PM
 
Location: Seattle
616 posts, read 152,488 times
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Steady state universe vs. the Big Bang Theory comes to mind. Halton Arp spent most of his life trying to disprove the Big Bang Theory. That being said though, his contributions were valuable to astronomy.
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Old Today, 04:32 PM
 
485 posts, read 204,083 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nor'Eastah View Post
I understand that Galileo was jailed for having the temerity to suggest that the earth revolved around the sun, not the opposite as was believed at the time. Heresy!

Under general relativity, there is no preferred reference plane. Saying the sun revolves around the earth is just as accurate as the opposite.
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Old Today, 07:44 PM
 
Location: Texas
35,215 posts, read 19,272,053 times
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The current scientific dilemma (as it's not really a quarrel) is how incompatible yet very well tested notions of relativity and quantum mechanics can be resolved. Progress is painfully slow with few good paths forward.
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