Doubt and Certainty in Science: A Biologist's Reflections on the Brain

Doubt and Certainty in Science: A Biologist's Reflections on the Brain

Doubt and Certainty in Science: A Biologist's Reflections on the Brain

Doubt and Certainty in Science: A Biologist's Reflections on the Brain

Excerpt

The Reith lectures for 1950 are here printed as they were given, with only the alterations necessary to make reading reasonably smooth. In preparing the lectures I was aware that the information was often unduly concentrated and that it needed amplification. In order to provide this without interfering with the individual lectures themselves, I have therefore added five chapters of comment, placed between the lectures. I hope that by reading directly through the book, including these comments, the reader will get a complete view of the thesis.

After much deliberation I have decided not to add a comment to the last lecture. There is obviously very much that could be said to expand the attempt to forecast the effects upon society of these new ways of speaking. I am much tempted to do it, but am very conscious of the great dangers that face the biologist if he tries to turn sociologist, without prolonged study of the enormous and diffuse problems that are involved.

There is plenty of evidence that scientists make foolish statements when they try to speak or write for large numbers of people. I have been most painfully aware that my language has not always been effective or even consistent, and I fear that theologians and philosophers in particular will dismiss much of what I have to say as simple-minded, because it is not written in the usual idiom of their systems. However, scientific language changes year by year. Scientists believe that they must doubt even the apparently most fundamental laws. Is it possible that there are significant aspects of language that even philosophers have not yet discovered? The scientist would not be surprised to find that it was so. Indeed, he would be suspicious of anyone who claimed that the last and best word on any subject had already been said, by Plato or anyone else. Let us praise famous men and their works, by all means, but a still more . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.