Day By Day

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Freeman Dyson on Science

Writing in the New York Review of Books one of the greatest scientific minds of the past century argues:

The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries. Wherever we go exploring in the world around us, we find mysteries. Our planet is covered by continents and oceans whose origin we cannot explain. Our atmosphere is constantly stirred by poorly understood disturbances that we call weather and climate. The visible matter in the universe is outweighed by a much larger quantity of dark invisible matter that we do not understand at all. The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence of human consciousness. We have no clear idea how the electrical discharges occurring in nerve cells in our brains are connected with our feelings and desires and actions.

Even physics, the most exact and most firmly established branch of science, is still full of mysteries.... Science is the sum total of a great multitude of mysteries. It is an unending argument between a great multitude of voices. It resembles Wikipedia much more than it resembles the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Dyson has come in for a lot of criticism, and was subjected to a classic New York Times hatchet job, lately because he has resisted the orthodox position on global warming, but his view of the nature of science is far superior to that of his critics. Read the whole thing here

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