Models all the way down
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When I entered graduate school in 1984, there was scant serious work in history or philosophy of the modern earth sciences. Excellent scholars had written on Darwin, Lyell and nineteenth century geology, and some of that work heeded earth science qua earth science, but much of it attended to geology only as something that helped to lay the groundwork for an advance in biology: Darwin’s theory of the origin of species through natural selection. Few had written anything of note on twentieth century earth science, and few had taken earth science seriously on its own terms.
In (1985), the ground shifted with the publication of Martin J. S. Rudwick’s Great Devonian Controversy. Here was a work that addressed the epistemic question of how geologists established a fact about the natural world, and how they did so without the aid of laboratories and nearly without the aid of instrumentation, save a rock hammer that scarcely differed from a workman’s tool, a rudimentary hand lens that any...
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