vendredi 14 février 2014

About social studies and molecular gastronomy

This morning, I have to answer to a kind young student doing a work on molecular gastronomy. This guy is studying sociology, and readers of this blog know what I think of SOME of the people working in this direction.

Here is the answer that I did to this particular student :

About sociological studies, I am quite cautious... because there were some dishonest people in this area (sorry). One of them came here, stood with us for some time (as the rest of the team, he was invited for lunch, coffee, etc.), and made a awful report. When I write "awful", it does not mean that he told the truth about possible bad activities that we would have, because then I would have been grateful to him, forgiving us a possibility to improve, what I am longing for). No, it means that his report was flawed, bad, dishonest ! For example, I made once a joke saying something about myself (probably something like "I am Normand", which is not true, and was only a joke)... and I found it written in the final dissertation !!!!!!!
Since, over my desk, there is a poster on which it is written : "Please don't forget that even when I am looking serious, I smile, and vice versa. Do interpret!"

Concerning part of the "theories" of some part of social studies, I am strongly opposed to the idea that all discourses are alike (quantitative sciences and religion, for example ; empiricism and quantitative sciences...), because it is simply not true, as I demonstrate daily in my blog.
I hate the idea of people pretending knowing science and writing such things, making also confusion between the activity and the people making this activity... and others.
For example, when I am doing "quantitative science" (call it hard science if you prefer), I NEVER discuss technology questions, and even if I have to do some technology activities for reaching the scientific results, it does not mean that I am doing technology; indeed I am also breathing... and this does not mean that I am doing biology.
Recently I was fighting people who are not honest, in this regard. And, for example, I fight such expressions such as "technoscience", because they are as wrong as "square circle".

Of course, in this regard, the main issue are words... and my own proposal is that we do not invent the meaning of words. Of course, I am fully aware that some communities can bend the meaning of words, but if we want to communicate usefully, let's not do that, or let's define precisely the community to which we are speaking, let's not use words in the meaning which is not the one of the community to which these word are given. In a word, let's be intellectually honest.

Please also do not forget that I published two books on such questions of history of science and epistemology... and remember that rhetoric was already condemned by Plato ! Brilliant people can  say brilliantly... wrong things, and I don't have time to loose speaking to them. There are "facts" (I know the limit and the philosophical discussion about such words ; please do know that Jean Largeault was my teacher in epistemology, wherease I published some history of science investigations with Georges Bram).

About Molecular gastronomy, more precisely, again, there are many people speaking of what they did not tried to learn, in particular confusing molecular cooking and molecular gastrononmy. And this connfusion is often due to journalists who write too fast (trash journals), or chefs (having great authority but sometimes poor knowledge) saying things that they don't understand.
Some years ago, a French journal had asked about 50 chefs : what is MG "for you" ?  "For you" ? We don't care! It's as if the journal had asked people in the street "what is a dog, for you" ? The only information from such answers is a perception of the object, not the object itself.

But when false theories don't die, the people having them die, and this is why I am so optimisticc : I work day and night repeating the truth... because I have nothing to sell. No goods, no food, no ideology.

By the way, be careful because I did many mistakes myself in the past. For example, I published some time ago "vive la physico-chimie", but finally I (almost) realized that I should say instead  "vive la chimie physique". I hate myself when I am making such mistakes, but being a small mind, I have to work hard on it, and finally, I sometimes come to better knowledge.
Another example, I promoted for years Condillac+Lavoisier idea about thoughts and words, but I changed my mind last year... and I did it publicly, as the (recorded, podcasted) introduction of my public Course on molecular gastronomy !  I am not happy with myself, of having perhaps driven young people into error (the kind of feeling that I never read in too many intellectual's writings).

By the way, reading your email, I see "Your focus instead is to develop scientific knowledge to be applied to the everyday cooking practises of us all in our home 'laboratories'." and this is not true.
Indeed, I have two different works. The first one, the main one, the only one for me is science, quantitative science, science of nature (remember, philosophia naturalis), and this is why  in this regard I DON'T want it to be applied, I don't care about that, because science (again my definition) is never applied !
Indeed my scientific activity is to use culinary phenomena as... starting points, and to try to lift up a corner of the great veil, as Einstein said. My own activy is only partial differential equations, solving quantum chemistry problems, trying to refute the current knowledge, in particular about gels (there I probably made recently a discovery).

Then, when I "go out from the lab", I have a "political", or "social" activity, which is to show to the public (including chefs) how quantitative science is wonderful. And often I do this showning applications.
But you have to know (I made a whole book on it) that innovation is TOO EASY : in the internet site of Pierre Gagnaire, I showed one invention per month for one decade, and each of them took me about five minutes to reach ! The value of this is nil, for me, because my personal goal is science, only science.
And this is why I explain everywhere that cooking is no science, in the meaning of philosophia naturalis. It is and it will remain a technical activity, with art component, and a social idea.

Coming back to your dissertation, when you write "In my dissertation I would like to explore why molecular gastronomy has not succeeded at revolutionizing the way people cook at home", this is not true : siphons are sold everywhere for making foams, in France, school boy in elementary schools learn how to make 10 L of whipped egg white from one egg only, and low temperature cooking is also everywhere. Moreover, all French teachers in culinary schools now know the difference between emulsions and foams... because this is part of their curriculum before being teachers !
And if you would receive up to 30 emails from teenagers preparing TPE, you would say that on the contrary, Molecular gastronomy is succeessful! But you are in England (sorry for this poor joke from a froggy).

Of course I could tell you much more, but it will take me too much time. My only recommendation is : please, don't start with preconcieved ideas, or if so, do try to find facts which will refute your assumption, and avoid trying to confirm.
By the way, this what I am teaching daily to students here... and this is why the scientific (in the meaning of hard sciences) method is so wonderful... but this is another story.

Finally, don't hesitate to ask me question or to call me on the phone for more explanation.