Leak-proofing Your Intuition Pump

Massimo has an interesting item out on how metaphors can be misused in science, with some useful ideas on how to use them effectively.  From Footnotes to Plato:

While discussing some sections of a paper I wrote with Maarten Boudry, we have seen a number of reasons why using machine-information metaphors is bad for science education. As I pointed out before, the full paper also devotes quite a bit of space to arguing that those metaphors haven’t been particularly good in actual scientific research. One of the fascinating things to watch after I posted the first part of this commentary was the number of people who vehemently defended the “biological organisms are machines” take, both here on the blog and on my Twitter feed. It’s like here we are, in the second decade of the 21st century, and there are still a lot of Cartesians around, who have apparently never heard of David Hume. Oh well.

Massimo doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – of course. Metaphors, after all, are some of our most useful intuition pumps.

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