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tirsdag 20. august 2013 kl. 17:51 · #teatime

The fact is that all the attempts to describe what science is or how it happens - that it is 'organized common sense', or its precise opposite (anti-intuitive reasoning), or that it is the falsification-testing of hypotheses, or serendipity sprung within fertile soil, or technology-led or theory-led or curiosity-led - all these say something true about the process, but none gives the whole picture. None offers a foolproof 'scientific method' that churns out a steady stream of accumulated knowledge. The problem is that, because science produces knowledge that is, for the most part, dependable and precise, we tend to believe there must be a dependable, precise method for obtaining it. This is the legacy of Bacon's dream of a 'new organon' that would grind facts into underlying principles. But the truth is that science works only because it can break its own rules, make mistakes, follow blind alleys, attempt too much - and because it draws upon the resources of the human mind, with its passions and foibles as well as its reason and invention. This is clearer to see when we look back at the beginnings, because we can afford more indulgence towards the failure of the early pioneers to practise what they preached, and because we can see how they muddled through, and because that muddling through is confirmed by history and does not remain a matter of faith. But unless we are prepared to take this lesson away from the history of science, that history is worth very little.

- Philip Ball, "Curiosity"


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