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Thursday, February 12, 2009


Reframing the Argument

You may remember that I got rather exasperated with Professor Tom Frame over a rather silly argument he used in the Sydney Morning Herald. Well, this morning he was on ABC local radio in Sydney, in a debate for science week with Prof Nick Clomp, Dean of Science at Charles Sturt University. The debate is currently the first podcast on the Science Week page.

Professor Frame is very erudite in this podcast, and I'm sure we could have a very good chat over a cup of coffee.

One thing he gets wrong is that, at the time of Darwin, most people didn't belive that the world was only 6,000 years old as per Bishop Ussher (to be fair, even Vic Stenger gets this wrong). Since Huttons work in the 18th Century, it was evident that the Earth was much older than 6,000 years old. How old was not clear, but values in the millions of years were bandied about. While at the beigings of the 19th century, the average working person may not have been familiar with this, the yariuos Mechanics Institutes promulgated the latest scientific ideas across all classes. In 1840, the wildy popular "Vestiges of Creation" came out, which had a decided old Earth perspective. Darwin sailed on his voyage with Lyles "Priciples of Geology", an old Earth textbook.

Still, aside from that off note, it's a nice little conversation, have a listen.


Hi Ian

For those who "forget" or haven't read the history of scientific discovery two centuries ago I recommend Richard Holme's book The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science.

It covers a key period when the likes of Herschel, Davy, Faraday and Banks (of First Fleet fame) were making key strides in their respective fields.

It also puts Darwin's revolutionary/evolutionary discoveries in its historical context.

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