The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science

By Peter Medawar | Go to book overview

2
Hypothesis and imagination

There is a mask of theory over the whole face of nature.

WILLIAM WHEWELL


1

If an educated layman were asked to set down his understanding of what goes on in the head when scientific discoveries are made and of what it is about a scientist that qualifies him to make them, his account of the matter might go something like this. A scientist is a man who has cultivated (i indeed he was not born with) the restless, analytical, problem-seeking, problem-solving temperament that marks his possession of a Scientific Mind. Science is an immensely prosperous and successful enterprise -- as religion is riot, nor economics (for example), nor philosophy itself -- because it is the outcome of applying a certain sure and powerful method of discovery and proof to the investigation of natural phenomena: The Scientific Method. The scientific method is not deductive in character -- it is a well-known fallacy to regard it as such -- but it is rigorous nevertheless, and logically conclusive. Scientific laws are inductive in origin. An episode of scientific discovery begins with the plain and unembroidered evidence of the senses -- with innocent, unprejudiced observation, the exercise of which is one of the scientist's most precious and distinctive faculties -- and a great mansion of natural law is slowly built upon it. Imagination kept within bounds may ornament a scientist's thought and intuition may bring it faster to its conclusions, but in a strictly formal sense neither is indispensable. Yet Newton was too severe upon hypoth-

-12-

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The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword - The Phenomenon of Medawar v
  • Contents xiii
  • Introduction xiv
  • 1 - The Phenomenon of man 1
  • 2 - Hypothesis and imagination 12
  • 3 - Is the scientific paper a fraud? 33
  • 4 - The Act of Creation 40
  • 5 - Darwin's illness 52
  • 6 - Two conceptions of science 59
  • 7 - Science and the sanctity of life 72
  • 8 - J.B.S. 86
  • 9 - Lucky Jim 94
  • 10 - On 'the effecting of all things possible' 104
  • 11 - Further comments on psychoanalysis 120
  • 12 - The strange case of the spotted mice 132
  • 13 - Unnatural science 144
  • 14 - Florey story 162
  • 15 - In defence of doctors 170
  • 16 - Expectation and prediction 182
  • 17 - Scientific fraud 196
  • 18 - Son of stroke*** 203
  • 19 - The question of the existence of God 207
  • 20 - On living a bit longer 212
  • Notes 218
  • Sources 228
  • Index 231
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