Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Last Propagandist

As I've mentioned elsewhere, the popular history of science is often pretty bad. However, I believe I've located the worst work of popular science ever written: Michael White's Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. A entirely typical error: White writes that Descartes "did not contrive experiments to support his [scientific] theories." Luckily for me, I have been reading Descartes' Philosophy of Science by Desmond Clarke at the same time as White's book. Clarke notes that, in 1628, Descartes gave up metaphysical writing because, as "the correspondence suggests," "the burden of experimental work precluded any other writing" (emphasis mine). He returned to metaphysics in 1634. In other words, for six years, Descartes basically did no work except experiments. And he performed experiments at many other times in his life as well.


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