virus: Discoveries and Inventions

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 4 Feb 1997 19:42:16 -0500

>From: "Wade T.Smith" <>
>Date: Mon, 3 Feb 97 16:52:47 -0500
>Subject: Re: virus: Discoveries and Inventions

>>How about the electron...was it discovered or invented? It seems to me
>>that your answer depends on how you define "electron". In one sense, the
>>particle was "discovered" in that it was found as part of reality and is a
>>description of "what is".
>All aspects of reality are discovered. But in some senses, the usage
>(within a context) of the electron is invented, since any model is an

What comprises "electron" outside of our conception of it? I will fiat
that there exists an "objective reality" outside of our conciouness of it.
What properly, does the portion of it we call "electron" consist of? I
assert that you cannot describe such a thing in words. Words are
inventions, not discoveries and anything comprised of them is also an

>Semantic/jargonical relativism aside...

But, you see, semantic relativism is the whole point of my question...again
(and I myself do this all thie time) you are implicitly insisting that
there are some basic meanings that are involate, axioms if you will.

So (if you are wondering) here is how I (currently) think:

Create: As in "...and God created the Heaven and the Earth..." This seems
a bit stong to me, implying spontaneous generation of things from whole
cloth or complete originality. I beleive the definition of this word fits
with many human activities...but it doesn't feel right. Too hubristic.

Discover: Implies that there was something there and we stumbled upon it.
This is the current paradigm under which most science functions...for
instance, most scientific papers use the consturuction "it was discovered
(or determined, or observed)" very passive...literally. I'm not against
this idea...but, I'm an experimental scientist and, to me, the concept of
"discovery" is a little threadbare.

Invent: Implies the construction of something new from old things.
Closely associated in my mind with the "light bulb!"...signifting that
often a single new or unanticipated idea can, in combination with old
concepts, lead to a much better conception of things. Also, inventions are
often applications of current theories: showing the human ability to
render substantive one's speculation.

Given these concepts when asked "What do people do?" I would answer
"People invent." What I mean by this is that people, in general,
accumulate lots of objects and ideas from their environment and then
reassemble them in different combinations, almost habitually, looking for
something more useful. If they really get frustrated then they will start
making guesses, theorizing wildly, or testing things by trial and error
hoping to (either internally or externally) find the "spark" which will
lead them to new and hopefully more useful constructs.

Or, as it is said: Neccesity is the mother of invention.

By saying that people invent I do not mean to imply that they do not create
or discover or do a great many other things. At this time, however, human
inventions and the human capacity to invent seem particularly significant.


Reed Konsler