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The Joshua Lederberg Papers

Title:
Letter from Joshua Lederberg to K. D. Knorr pdf (128,811 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Joshua Lederberg to K. D. Knorr
Description:
Item is handwritten. Item is a photocopy.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (128,811 Bytes)
Date:
1981-01-12 (January 12, 1981)
Creator:
Lederberg, Joshua
Recipient:
Knorr, K. D.
Rights:
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Relation:
Lederberg Grouping: Correspondence E
Box Number: 34
Folder Number: 67
Unique Identifier:
BBGCHV
Accession Number:
81
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Language:
English
Format:
application/pdf
image/tif
Physical Condition:
Good
Series: Correspondence, 1935-2002
SubSeries: 1978-1984
Folder: Knorr, K. D.
Transcript:
Dr. Kevin D Knorr
U. Pa
[stamped, JAN 12 1981]
. . . Analogical Reasoner . . .
You were very generous to send me a unique reprint of your critique.
I was pleased to see it was not global refutation; and what I sent you is not incompatible. I had not realized anyone could hold the metaphor-theory in the excessively strict form that you criticize.
About risk-avoiding strategies -- since the stakes may be commensurate with the risks -- I am very much concerned that we institutionalize lack of daring in so many ways. The organization that you studied may be more typical of the mainstream of American science than of its frontiers; and that may have to do also with the relative poverty of fantasy reported to you.
On the other hand almost everyone works a major retrospective reconstruction of discovery, and, frankly, I am rather skeptical of most or all discovery accounts.
[stamped, JAN 12 1981]
[END PAGE ONE]
[BEGIN PAGE TWO]
The impossible is needed -- real time recording of all that goes on to capture the scientist in flagrante delicto . . . . and at that the data would be liable to ambiguous interpretation.
I am very pleased nonetheless to see efforts like yours at empirical study. For years I have talked, from time to time, on the theme: "Do scientists understand science?" and are hopes ultimately to be less nihilistic. Needless to say, authentic insights about our process will have the most important implications for policy and culture.
I will look for Vol IV and for your own book when they are published: and I hope you might remember to send me some of your other journal publications
Sincerely,
Joshua Lederberg
[END PAGE TWO]
[BEGIN PAGE THREE]
P.S. You are quite right that scientists attach themselves to a conjecture and work hard to prove (not falsify) it -- and understandably in the light of the sweat it takes.
I had great difficulty persuading most of my colleagues that I did not have a strong prior conviction whether there is life on Mars before the Viking mission. So many people had such strong negative dogma that the arena was strongly polarized, and it was hard to define a posture that was merely uncertain or agnostic.
It is rare to find a hypothesis such that yea or nay conclusions are equally feasible and interesting. And these are, ipso facto, the least burdened with risk. A/C problems of time, etc, one must urge graduate students to look for that kind of problem. But what a socialization that is!
[END PAGE THREE]
[BEGIN PAGE FOUR]
P.P.S. Did you save a reference to citric acid and inhibition of browning of proteins?
(One of my colleagues works on medically important reactions analogous to browning.)
Metadata Last Modified Date:
2006-12-06
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