Day By Day

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Shifting Sands of Science

Anthony Gottleib has a nice piece in More Intelligent Life in which he notes, as I have many times in this blog, that there are a number of reasons to be skeptical toward scientific authority.I liked this paragraph in particular:
At the end of her book “Science: A Four Thousand Year History” (2009), Patricia Fara of Cambridge University wrote that “there can be no cast-iron guarantee that the cutting-edge science of today will not represent the discredited alchemy of tomorrow”. This is surely an understatement. If the past is any guide—and what else could be?—plenty of today’s science will be discredited in future. There is no reason to think that today’s practitioners are uniquely immune to the misconceptions, hasty generalisations, fads and hubris that marked most of their predecessors. Although the best ideas of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Darwin, Einstein and others have stood the test of time and taken their place in the permanent corpus of knowledge, error remains inherent in the enterprise of science. This is because interesting theories always go beyond the data that they seek to explain, and because science is made by people. [emphasis mine]

Read the whole thing here.

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