Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Ignorance: How It Drives Science

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Ignorance: How It Drives Science

Article excerpt

Stuart Firestein. Ignorance: How It Drives Science. New York: Oxford, 2012.

Columbia University Professor Stuart Firestein thinks that science is not just facts and a bunch of rules for uncovering data. Rather, it's black cats in dark rooms. As the Princeton mathematician Andrew Wiles describes it: It's groping and probing and poking, and some bumbling and bungling, and then a switch is discovered, often by accident, and the light is lit, and everyone says "Oh, wow, that's how it works," and then it's off into the next dark room, looking for the next mysterious dark feline.

Firestein argues that it is the "not knowing," the puzzling over thorny questions or inexplicable data that gets researchers into the lab early and keeps them there late that is the driving force of science. What scientists "know" is certainly important in coming up with new knowledge. However, in this book, Firestein shows that what scientists don't know is even more important in uncovering new information, as they use "ignorance" to program their work, identify what should be done, decide what the next steps are, and think about where they should concentrate their energies. …

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