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Science and Social Intelligence about Anomalies: The Case of Meteorites

Ron Westrum
Social Studies of Science
Vol. 8, No. 4 (Nov., 1978), pp. 461-493
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/284819
Page Count: 33
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Science and Social Intelligence about Anomalies: The Case of Meteorites
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Abstract

In making decisions about the reality of alleged anomalous events, scientists are likely to weigh both the a priori plausibility of what is alleged and the credibility of the reports which reach them. The present paper is an attempt to examine the anomaly reporting processes which led to the scientific recognition of the reality of meteorites in the eighteenth century. It is shown that scientists fail to make realistic assumptions about anomaly reporting, and that this failure affects the accuracy of the decisions made about anomalies. The treatment of reports about alleged anomalous events is further shown to be related to the scientific community's concerns about protecting its internal processes from external interference. The recognition of meteorites took place only when the savants of the eighteenth century 1) found a way of evaluating the reports, 2) devised a theory to explain them, and 3) received unimpeachable eyewitness testimony of their occurrence.

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