Nature of ScienceA report on “The Demon-Haunted World” By Tracy Clapper
Tenets of the Nature of Science • Scientific Ideas are subject to change • Scientific thought requires skepticism • Science demands evidence • Science is a blend of logic and imagination • Scientists try to identify and avoid bias • Science is a means of explaining things without the use of the divine or supernatural • Science is a collaborative activity
Skepticism Quotes • “In introducing me to skepticism and wonder, my parents taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought central to the scientific method.” This quote speaks about using imagination as well as skepticism, a must in the scientific process. • “Disproofs are recognized as central to the scientific theory.” • “You must state your case in the face of determined, expert criticism.” • “gullibility kills.” I like how these two quotes state the rigor of skepticism in the scientific community as well as the importance if skepticism.
More Skepticism Quotes • “Science is forever whispering in our ears, ‘Remember, you’re new at this. You might be mistaken. You’ve been wrong before.” Ann DruyanI like how this quote reminds scientists to remain skeptical, even of their own work. • “All science asks is to employ the same levels of skepticism we use in buying a used car.” I think many people can relate to buying a used car. This gives people an idea of the correct frame of mind for scientific thinking.
Quotes on Scientific Evidence • “I understand more about that remorseless taskmaster called the scientific method: Everything hinges on the matter of evidence.” • “I try not to think with my gut. Really, it’s okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in.” Finally someone has seen the error of going with a gut feeling rather than one that can be explained by proof. • “The evidence must be strong. Not all claims to knowledge have equal merit.” • “The trouble with earth beings is they want proof, proof, proof.” A quote from an anonymous letter. I thought this was hilarious when I read it. I wanted to insert, “Of course, we should just believe everything we are told.”
Quotes about the divine and supernatural explanations • “Men think epilepsy divine, because they don’t understand it. But if they called everything divine which they don’t understand, why, there would be no end to divine things.” Hippocrates • “A god of the gaps is assigned responsibility for what we do not know.” A critique by Carl Sagan These two quotes are a few of the many critiques Sagan has of some types of religious thinking. He spends a great deal of his time on religion and science, which is a very heated topic.
Quotes on Scientific Change • “Science thrives on errors, cutting them away one by one.” • “We give our highest rewards to those who convincingly disprove established beliefs.” • “Of course we must be willing to change our minds when warranted by new evidence.” • “Scientists make mistakes. It is the job of the scientist to recognize our weakness, to be ruthlessly self-critical.” I think all of these quotes attest to the fact that as our understandings of the world grow, our views change. Scientists make mistakes and views change because mistakes can be made.
Quotes on Avoiding Bias • “Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions.” I experienced this when my research with Dr. Reed didn’t go quite as I expected. • “Trust a witness in all matters in which neither his self-interest, his passions, his prejudices, nor the love of the marvelous is strongly concerned.” Thomas Henry Huxley • “In our everyday life, we effortlessly and unconsciously incorporate cultural norms and make them our own.” • “It is a capitol mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I really like this quote. Sometimes it’s better to be ignorant of some information, like what may happen, until the experiment has been done and the data gathered. • “Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.” Francis Bacon Another great quote about how what you expect to see can contaminate your experiment.
Some miscellaneous good quotes • “Science is a double edged sword.” I like how this one illustrates the fact that science is a tool. In itself, it is neither good nor evil, but it can be used for both, depending on the wielder. • “The technological perils that science serves up, its implicit challenge to received wisdom, and its perceived difficulty, are all reasons for some people to mistrust and avoid it.” What a shame it is that people are turned off of science because of these things. • “Religions are often the state-protected nurseries of pseudoscience, although there’s no reason why religions have to play that role.” I’m glad Sagan wrote that religion doesn’t have to be at odds with science all the time. However, this book did seem very anti-religion. • “The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is farm more important that the findings of science.” This one says to me, “Facts are not the important parts of science. It’s the process of science that is important.”
Miscellaneous Quotes continued • “A credulous mind finds most delight in believing strange things, and the stranger they are the easier they pass with him; but never regards those that are plain and feasible, for every man can believe such.” Samuel Butler I thought this was a good quote because it hints at people’s tendency to believe a reverse Occam’s razor is the best approach to the unknown. • “Don’t they wish future generations to have access to their masterpieces?” I added this just because it describes another major tenet of science: Studies need to be published and peer-reviews so people can reproduce your work and critique it.
A Final Quote • “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” Charles Darwin I thought this was another amazing quote from The Demon-Haunted World. It reminds me of the old adage that says something along the lines of, “The more you know, the more you come to realize how little you know.” I think many people who think they know a lot really don’t know how ignorant they are.