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From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>

Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 23:50:37 +0000

On Tue, 4 Mar 2003, Arthur P. Smith wrote:

*> [By the way, Stevan changed my Subject line - but I suppose it's a
*

*> relevant followup]
*

The Forum has been continuous since 1998. To make the archive more useful

to users, I gather new postings under relevant existing threads, if

they exist, rather than letting new thread-names be spawned willy-nilly,

as on Usenet.

*> The problem I see with this, and with the Bogdanov's...
*

This (the Riemann Hypothesis paper) and that (the Bogdanovs) differ in

that the former is an unrefereed paper and the latter refereed and

published...

*> Scientists may have an intuitive grasp of this - but Swedish
*

*> reporters perhaps not?
*

Who cares? Are we publishing research for press publicity or to

contribute to research progress?

*> Do any of the e-print archives out there actually require that something
*

*> be published in a refereed journal first? If so how is that verified?
*

No, but the universities for which the Eprint Archives are the research

output repositories do require their researchers to publish (or

perish).

*>sh> The bottom line is that you cannot build on a
*

*>sh>fraudulent or quackish or otherwise erroneous finding: It soon collapses
*

*>sh>under its own weight.
*

*>
*

*> Not necessarily - in this particular case mathematicians have already
*

*> been building huge edifices on the assumption that the Riemann
*

*> hypothesis is true; any "collapse" would actually be a proof of its
*

*> falsehood
*

I meant to mention that: Mathematics differs from empirical research in

that empirical research builds on empirical findings. If the finding was

false, it will not bear any further weight, and collapses. Mathematics

is deductive, proving what follows from certain assumptions. The

assumptions are not necessarily true, or proven, in every case, but that

does not invalidate the proof of what they would entail if they *were*

true (modus ponens). With both the Riemann Hypothesis and Fermat's Last

Theorem (so I understand from my mathematician colleagues) there already

exist many valid proofs for what would *follow* from the truth of Riemann

or Fermat. Those proofs do not collapse if the R & F prove to be false;

they just perhaps lose some of their interest (unlike a counterfactual

conditional in empirical science, which has no interest at all --

except to certain philosophers of science). The absence of attention

to the Riemann "proof" in question suggests that mathematicians are

not taking it seriously. (Swedish reporters are another matter, but not

a very important one; one hopes that is not where the Nobel or Fields

committees turn in search of candidates...)

*> Can there
*

*> not be a more obscure case of some minor result that is published, never
*

*> properly checked, and somehow absorbed into the mythology of a field? So
*

*> that hundreds of scientist-years of effort are spent that rely in some
*

*> small part on it, and then all called into question at a later date?
*

In archeology, maybe, with things like the Piltdown Man hoax, or the

case of the Midwife Toad; but fields that consist mostly of speculation

are hard to distinguish from mythology anyway, even in the best of times.

But I defer to others, if they know any substantive cases in point;

if there are none, then the conjecture that there might be itself may

border on mythology. In any case, such disinformative viruses sound too

subtle to warrant our trusting peer-review as the prophylactic against

them either.

*> There seem to be a few cases of this in bio-medicine in recent years
*

Which?

Stevan

Received on Tue Mar 04 2003 - 23:50:37 GMT

Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 23:50:37 +0000

On Tue, 4 Mar 2003, Arthur P. Smith wrote:

The Forum has been continuous since 1998. To make the archive more useful

to users, I gather new postings under relevant existing threads, if

they exist, rather than letting new thread-names be spawned willy-nilly,

as on Usenet.

This (the Riemann Hypothesis paper) and that (the Bogdanovs) differ in

that the former is an unrefereed paper and the latter refereed and

published...

Who cares? Are we publishing research for press publicity or to

contribute to research progress?

No, but the universities for which the Eprint Archives are the research

output repositories do require their researchers to publish (or

perish).

I meant to mention that: Mathematics differs from empirical research in

that empirical research builds on empirical findings. If the finding was

false, it will not bear any further weight, and collapses. Mathematics

is deductive, proving what follows from certain assumptions. The

assumptions are not necessarily true, or proven, in every case, but that

does not invalidate the proof of what they would entail if they *were*

true (modus ponens). With both the Riemann Hypothesis and Fermat's Last

Theorem (so I understand from my mathematician colleagues) there already

exist many valid proofs for what would *follow* from the truth of Riemann

or Fermat. Those proofs do not collapse if the R & F prove to be false;

they just perhaps lose some of their interest (unlike a counterfactual

conditional in empirical science, which has no interest at all --

except to certain philosophers of science). The absence of attention

to the Riemann "proof" in question suggests that mathematicians are

not taking it seriously. (Swedish reporters are another matter, but not

a very important one; one hopes that is not where the Nobel or Fields

committees turn in search of candidates...)

In archeology, maybe, with things like the Piltdown Man hoax, or the

case of the Midwife Toad; but fields that consist mostly of speculation

are hard to distinguish from mythology anyway, even in the best of times.

But I defer to others, if they know any substantive cases in point;

if there are none, then the conjecture that there might be itself may

border on mythology. In any case, such disinformative viruses sound too

subtle to warrant our trusting peer-review as the prophylactic against

them either.

Which?

Stevan

Received on Tue Mar 04 2003 - 23:50:37 GMT

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