Archive for August, 2008


August 28, 2008

The tag line says “Not monolithic orthodoxy”.

This is not a definition of plagiodoxy, but a description, stated in the negative. Negativity gets a bad press.

But if our most powerful problem solving tool-science- is founded on the principle of falsification, it seems to me this leads us directly to re-evaluating the negative. We can, after all, state with much greater confidence that the world is not flat than we can say that it is spherical. Further, we can say with greater confidence that the world is not spherical than we can say that it is an oblate spheroid of revolution. Even further, we can say with more confidence that it is not a smooth oblate spheroid of revolution, working our way through falsification away from mathematical abstraction toward a description of the Earth’s shape as it actually exists, at least as it existed at the time of measurement, plus or minus error.

A longer tag line could read:”Thinking on the slant about the world as a heterogenous system, far from equilibrium”.

Getting started

August 26, 2008

The word “plagiodoxy” came to me in a familiar place: in front of a classroom of introductory geology students. I was trying to connect the sometimes arcane jargon of the science with ordinary experiences the students were familiar with. In this case, I was working my way through the mineral group called feldspar, trying to make semantic connection with the two sub-groups, orthoclase and plagioclase. So I was chatting about ortho-dontists, ortho-pedists and ortho-doxy. I ended up saying something like “I suppose if you wanted crooked teeth, you would go to a plagiodontist. If you wanted crooked bones, you would go to a plagiopedist. If you wanted to learn to think on the slant, you would go to a plagiodox institution. That’s called “college”.

I’m not sure even now what it means exactly.  Of course, what it means is not up to me alone. Like children, words have lives of their own. You can participate in their conception, you can hope to provide guidance. But ultimately it is not up to you.