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The role of belief in knowledge (APPLIED EPISTEMOLOGY)
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Mick Harper
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I assume anyone observing these exchanges would suppose I was being highly pedantic. And they would be right at the pub quiz level. But when it comes to, say, handing out government environmental grants to counties on the basis of the length of their coastline or calculating the direction of two countries' borders for the purpose of dividing their coastal waters, it matters. Lebanon and Israel have just agreed theirs under American pressure -- you can guess who got the lion's share, so maybe it is pedantic.
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Mick Harper
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Here is a tiny wisp of straw in the wind. This bloke I constantly lock horns with on medium.com (in usually quite a friendly way) posted this up

Animals Can Make Elements
According to the winner of an “Ig Nobel” prize, that is! https://medium.com/@johnwelford15/animals-can-make-elements-8eba363ba56b

The Ig Nobel prizes are awarded every year to scientists and others whose work is so bizarre or downright absurd that it deserves to be brought to public attention. The awards are made at Harvard University, and it is surprising just how many recipients actually turn up to be generally mocked for their efforts.

You've probably heard of this and, if you are like me, probably gave it no thought.

One such prize was awarded (in his absence) in 1993 to Louis Kervran, who had come up with the theory that living creatures could perform nuclear fission and fusion within their own bodies. This would explain, for example, how chickens produce the calcium needed to make eggshells — they combine atoms of potassium and hydrogen, apparently.

My fencing partner then went on to describe the theory (it involves atomic numbers and is quite beyond me and, I suspect, him) and concluded the piece in terms we can all understand

Louis Kervran was convinced that these processes are going on all the time, but “official” science had always made the mistake of looking for chemical processes in “dead” matter and not living organisms. If only they had looked at animals they would have seen these transformations taking place all the time. In his book “Biological Transformations”, Louis Kervran failed to explain exactly how this happens. According to him, it just does. An Ig Nobel prize was never more fully deserved!

I took up the cudgels:

This is typical of an academic reaction to something which challenges the academic mind set. It may be wrong, it may be poorly argued (though I bet it wasn't), it may even be mildly out to lunch, but it is not worthy of this kind of supercilious mockery. See here for another place where nuclear fusion/fission is going on unnoticed by the vacuous careerists of the Ivy League https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPWH9xh_Jy0

that last being the YouTube of SCUM theory. So far, routine. But then a surprising thing happened. The bloke himself clapped my riposte to his own post! Just my pointing it out was enough to make him realise it maybe 'was not fully deserved'. And in another couple of hours, ten others did too. And this in a very obscure corner of the Medium empire.

I doubt if any of them watched the YouTube but it does demonstrate that quite ordinary people are able to countenance that Harvard & Co are not necessarily the last word when it comes to deciding who shall be forever fruitcake. Something to build on.
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