Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Astronomy: Classic debates

Being the year of astronomy it would be worthwhile to review some of the great debates of the past: The 1921 debate between Harlow Shapley and Herber Curtis in 1921 and the cosmological debates of the 1930s and 1940s. Of the latter from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy...

Sometimes, philosophy drives science. Cosmology between 1932-48 provides an excellent example how explicitly philosophical considerations directed the evolution of a modern science during a crucial period of its development. The following article exhibits these philosophical aspects of cosmological thinking in detail, beginning with a brief sketch of the historical development of general relativity cosmology until 1932. Following this, the historical participants in the philosophical debate are introduced, along with the basic ideas of their competing positions. Then the critical stages of the debate -- 1935-37 -- are closely explored by focussing directly upon the arguments of the participating scientists and philosophers. Finally, the concluding stage of the philosophical debate, namely, the emergence of the steady-state theory of the Universe, is presented in the context of its development from Popper's philosophy of science.


"The Great Debate" [1921]--Shapley & Curtis

The astronomy/cosmology debates of the 1930's & 1940's

An over zealous Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington?

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