The Poli Sci types are always on about saliency or lack thereof --- the boffins never ever are.
Never never never never ever are.
Any theory that claims that the stock market or the economy or the weather is virtually impossible to predict accurately can be tested - for free - by the seven or eight billion of us.
The results affect all of us - daily - and we ourselves can conduct the experiment.
But most of the supposedly epoch breaking experiments, the type that scientists love to bang on about, we can only take on the word of well educated journalists making sense of long articles in journals like Nature or Science.
We can't even follow the logic of a written report on a written report of an experiment, let alone conduct the experiment ourselves and besides nothing it claims to report seems to make a bit of difference to our lives.
It totally lacks saliency.
It is really nothing but 'science porn' - fun for a few minutes to relieve the stress of our day to day lives, but nothing more.
We can respect the fact that without proven quantum theories, GPS systems won't be accurate enough to safely land the planes that billions of us have flown in.
But we still tend to more admire the applied technology of GPS than the basic science behind it.
Truly epoch breaking changes in the basic tenets of physics, chemistry, geology and astronomy all occurred in the first half of the 20th century without really changing the classical - Newtonian and Platonic - ways we ordinary people were taught to view reality.
My book argues that it rather took changes in the way we viewed (a) biology in general (b) human and social activities like consciousness and the economy in particular and (c) 'the weather' to really change us --- to really make us post-progress, post modern, post Newton, post Plato after 1945.
(I include with 'the weather' such events as earthquakes, volcanoes, asteroids, pandemics : ---- all of the globe's massive, sudden and unpredictable catastrophes.)
The three things these items all had in common is that they are close at hand, they envelope us daily and most importantly, they happen over relatively short (in terms of an typical human life) time periods.
Yes, tectonic plates move, but extremely slowly - yes, the universe is expanding and cooling, again seemingly slowly - yes, the Earth's radioactive atoms are decaying and diminishing in number, but oh so slowly.
WWII : inducing epoch-making changes in the way we view Biology, human/social behavior and catastrophes like The Weather
WWII was a catastrophe by any measure, particularly to people who make confident predictions for a living, and served as the catalyst to put the fatal post into modernity and progress and the enlightenment project.
I won't spend much time in my book arguing that Auschwitz and Hiroshima played a key role in modernity's demise - gazillions have already trotted down that path before me.
I obviously want to add the unexpected success of penicillium slime poo (standing in as the very mental image of 1940's anti-civilization) to help account for WWII's upending of progress and civilization.
But I also want to give a fuller account of the hundreds of embarrassing failures in supremely confident prediction - that very hallmark of left brain science - that so marked that unexpectedly long six year war.
Like the drip drip drip of water torture, they too played a big role in the sense of fatigue against anymore Progress Talk that so marked post 1945 intellectual and artistic thought and eventually became the commonplace of many ordinary folks as well.
One prediction made about the coming war, made by most people in the years 1931-1939, certainly was proven true - millions of civilians did die and did die by gas.
But they certainly did not die, as was generally predicted, in the first few days of a sharp short war.
Because I know of no one notable who claimed the war would last six years because all such predictions of quick successes (and from all sides) would fail time and time and time again.
So parallel to Dawson and Meyer's daily work on penicillin-for-all, I will watch these two frontline veterans of WWI parse the news of the unexpectedly long course of WWII, as seen from by far the best served city in the world for abundant wartime media, New York ....