Thursday, April 5, 2012

Evolution quotes # 50

Stephen Jay Gould; teacher of biology, geology and history of science at Harvard University:
" supposed to be an objective enterprise, with common criteria of procedure and standards of evidence that should lead all people of good will to accept a documented conclusion...

But I would reject any claim that personal preference, the root of aesthetic judgment, does not play a key role in science...our ways of learning about the world are strongly influenced by the social preconceptions and biased modes of thinking that each scientist must apply to any problem. The stereotype of a fully rational and objective 'scientific method,' with individual scientists as logical (and interchangeable) robots, is self-serving mythology. Historians and philosophers of science often make a distinction between the logic and psychologic of a scientific conclusion-or 'context of justification' and 'context of discovery' in the jargon…

The myth of a separate mode based on rigorous objectivity and arcane, largely mathematical knowledge, vouchsafed only to the initiated, may provide some immediate benefits in bamboozling a public to regard us as a new priesthood, but must ultimately prove harmful in erecting barriers to truly friendly understanding and in falsely persuading so many students that science lies beyond their capabilities...the myth of an arcane and enlightened priesthood of scientists....

T.S. Kuhn referred to the shared worldview of scientists as a paradigm (see his classic 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Such paradigms, in Kuhn's view, are so constraining, and so unbreakable in their own terms, that fundamentally new theories must be imported from elsewhere (insights of other disciplines, conscious radicalism of young rebels within a field) and must then triumph by rapid replacement (scientific revolution), rather than by incremental advance."
Stephen Jay Gould, "In the Mind of the Beholder," Natural History, 103(2): 14, Feb. 1994, pp. 14-16

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