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Periodicals and Controversy

Lightman, Bernard (2011) Periodicals and Controversy. Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science, 5 (1). pp. 5-11. ISSN 1913-0465

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Abstract

In 1854 the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley pointed to a significant change in the way that reviewers were treating books that endorsed deeply flawed scientific theories. In the past, “when a book had been shown to be a mass of pretentious nonsense,” it “quietly sunk into its proper limbo. But these days appear, unhappily, to have gone by.” Due to the “utter ignorance of the public mind as to the methods of science and the criterion of truth,” scientists were now forced to review such books in order to expose their deficiencies (Huxley 1903, 1). Huxley’s observation indicates how the development of a mass reading audience in mid-nineteenth century Britain transformed the very nature of scientific controversy. Scientists were compelled to debate the validity of theories in new public sites, not just in exclusive scientific societies or in specialized scientific journals with limited circulation. It was during the nineteenth century that public controversy—not limited to science alone—became possible for the first time. In this short piece I will discuss how the “communications revolution” produced a public space for the debate over evolutionary theory in mid-nineteenth century Britain. I will focus on periodicals as one of those public spaces in which the debate took place.1 As Huxley found, attempting to resolve a scientific controversy in the general periodical press could be a risky venture. Although a non-specialized journal could provide the public space necessary for reaching the reading audience, maintaining scientific authority in such a site was somewhat problematic.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Lightman, Bernard
Keywords: Scientific Realism; Epistemic Issues; Epistemology of Science
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Technology
General Issues > Values In Science
Depositing User: Jordan Miller
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2021 02:22
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2021 02:22
Item ID: 17879
Journal or Publication Title: Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science
Publisher: The University of Toronto
Official URL: https://spontaneousgenerations.library.utoronto.ca...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.4245/sponge.v5i1.15324
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Technology
General Issues > Values In Science
Date: 30 September 2011
Page Range: pp. 5-11
Volume: 5
Number: 1
ISSN: 1913-0465
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/17879

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