Modern science is comprised of cold, objective, Spock-like, reason-based, data-driven searchers in a quest for the truths about natural laws.

Ha ha ha.

In reality, science overall is much like it has always been. It is composed of some charlatans chasing the latest popular tripe, some who are in it for the money, some who are terrible and some who are great. Just like any other job. But a modern mythology has been carefully crafted and if you are competing for taxpayer money, it helps to promote the belief that your way is more ethical, noble and pure than science done by the private sector.

It makes for a tidy narrative. And a completely fake one.

In the tidy narrative, Galileo was a man of pure reason persecuted by the mean Catholic Church. His idea won. In the actual world, he was kind of a clown who determined that the tides should only happen once per day and never change - and when scientists showed him he was off his rocker, he attacked and insulted them. The Pope wanted a strong argument for Copernicus and even helped Galileo with the title of his book, but some insults can't be ignored so Galileo ended up in a swanky villa and didn't even have to go to Mass - yet somehow that was considered persecution.

Bad science history talks about competing ideas and problems and then talks about whose hypothesis won. It's like reading about the early days of home computer operating systems and reading about Bill Gates and DOS versus Gary Kildall and CP/M. You miss a giant chunk of the story that way.

Thony Christie at The Renaissance Mathematicus likes debunking bad science history and doesn't take a lot of prisoners. If you ridicule astrology, for example, and are relying on just your good ol' boy blogging network to coo at your juvenile rant, don't send it to him. He knows that astrology isn't pre-determining your destiny but claiming it lacks a science basis isn't supported by history. I admired The Geniuses of Britain but Christie is having none of it, and compares the actual contributions of other countries (including consideration of both their size and population) and determines that Britain plays the "itty bitty island" card a lot, but it doesn't hold up.

The only complaint might be that his blogroll is 50% sites that do exactly the opposite of what he does - they invoke popular beliefs and logical fallacies and make casual claims without evidence to advance a world view under the guise of science. But that's quibbling.

It's good reading.

Read more: The Renaissance Mathematicus

H/T Evelyn Lamb