Studies in History and Philosophy of Science

TitleRationality and irrationality in the history of continental drift: was the hypothesis of continental drift worthy of pursuit?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsŠešelja, D, Weber, E
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science
Volume43
Number1
Pagination147–159
ISSN0039-3681
Abstract

The revolution in geology, initiated with Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift, has been the subject of many philosophical discussions aiming at resolving the problem of rationality underlying this historical episode. Even though the debate included analyses in terms of scientific methodology, applications of concrete accounts of epistemic justification to this case study have been rare. In particular, the question as to whether Wegener’s theory was epistemically worthy of pursuit in the first half of the twentieth century, that is, in its early development, remained open or inadequately addressed. The aim of this paper is to offer an answer to this question. The evaluation of Drift will be done by means of an account of theory evaluation suitable for the context of pursuit, developed in &\#353;e&\#353;elja and Stra&\#223;er (accepted for publication). We will argue that pursuing the theory of continental drift was rational, i.e., that it was irrational to reject its pursuit as unworthy

DOI10.1016/j.shpsa.2011.11.005
Citation Key2079125
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