Hard-Up Debater Appeals to Kuhn

I just came across an unbelievably crappy argument in a scientific debate between two professors. I must keep the details obscure, but the basic form of the exchange follows.

X: I have discovered that tomatoes were grown in Ireland in the Neolithic.

Y: That is highly unlikely. The seeds and leaf remains that form almost the entire base of your assertions belong to turnips. Just check out these pictures for comparison.

X: Professor Y subscribes to an earlier Kuhnian paradigm than myself. Therefore his work is incommensurable with mine, and he is by definition unable to criticise me. I remain convinced that tomatoes were grown in Ireland in the Neolithic.

I tell you people, I am reeling.


  1. #1 paddy
    August 6, 2008

    But of course we had tomatoes in the Neolithic! That explains why our traditional Irish chilli and bolognese are so good.

  2. #2 Mick
    August 6, 2008

    I hope that’s an Irish Reel.

  3. #3 Mark
    August 6, 2008

    Someone needs to reread Kuhn.

  4. #4 Bert Chadick
    August 6, 2008

    Mmmmmm. Prehistoric cave tomatoes.

  5. #5 Astrofys
    August 6, 2008

    X must be a swede…..

  6. #6 Janne
    August 6, 2008

    I very sincerely hope Prof. X is not a natural scientist…

    “Yes, I know our evaluators say our robot project is a failure, what with the thing bursting into flames whenever we try to turn it on. But that’s just because they see it from the perspective of an earlier, obsolete Kuhnian paradigm of course; the project is actually a great success. So you will of course continue our funding, right?”

  7. #7 ArchAsa
    August 7, 2008

    Seriously, I just don’t know what kind of world I live in when
    A. Someone with that insane attitude reaches professor-ship
    B. Someone who makes such a statment is not immediately asked to pack their bags or check into the nearest rehab…

    I wonder what s/he would feel if overhearing two doctors discussing the right treatment and using arguments likte this.

  8. #8 Henrik
    August 7, 2008

    Names! We want names!

  9. #9 Escuerd
    August 8, 2008

    Watch out. Professor X might send his X-men after you if you annoy him. Or he may just use his mutant powers to change your mind more…directly.

    But seriously, claiming to be on the leading edge of a paradigm shift gets points on John Baez’s crackpot index (okay, that’s for physicists, but maybe something similar should exist for archaeologists).

  10. #10 CCBC
    August 9, 2008

    When I first read your item I thought you were using “tomatoes/Ireland/Neolithic” as a stand-in for some other debate (which you didn’t want to identify because it would out Profs. X and Y), an analogy, in other words. But, most of the writers here are taking your terms literally, so I got to ask, did this turkey really claim tomatoes were grown in Neolithic Ireland?

  11. #11 Martin R
    August 9, 2008

    No, CCBC, your original interpretation was correct.

  12. #12 Kaleberg
    August 10, 2008

    Marcus, I heard you were dead.

    Not at all, here I am.

    But Petrus said you were dead, and he’s always right.

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