A friend passes along a review from Richard Posner. Posner dislikes the character and, beyond that, accuses him of "epistemic nonsense":

The stories were written when England was still the world's leading scientific nation. Science had enormous prestige and fascinated the educated public, so Doyle was clever to cast Holmes as a scientific thinker. But really he is a caricature of a scientific thinker. He is cold-blooded, hyper-rational, and a complete loner, and he notices, and records in his memory, everything in his field of perception. These are not the defining characteristics of the real scientist. What defines scientific method is a commitment to confronting hypotheses with objective (that is, observer-independent) data that may falsify them. The detection of crime can be scientific in this sense. The detective may suspect someone, but he must be prepared to abandon the hypothesis of guilt if fingerprint evidence, DNA evidence, the reliable confession of someone else, or other persuasive evidence falsifies the hypothesis. Being unwilling to work with other people because you are too proud to accept assistance or because you despise their intelligence, and having a garbage-pail memory: those are not essential or even common characteristics of successful scientists.

Your comment will be posted after it is approved.

Leave a Reply.