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

By Peter Medawar | Go to book overview

13
Unnatural science
If a broad line of demarcation is drawn between the natural sciences and what can only be described as the unnatural sciences, it will at once be recognized as a distinguishing mark of the latter that their practitioners try most painstakingly to imitate what they believe -- quite wrongly, alas for them -- to be the distinctive manners and observances of the natural sciences. Among these are:
(a) the belief that measurement and numeration are intrinsically praiseworthy activities (the worship, indeed, of what Ernst Gombrich calls idola quantitatis);
(b) the whole discredited farrago of inductivism -- especially the belief that facts are prior to ideas and that a sufficiently voluminous compilation of facts can be processed by a calculus of discovery in such a way as to yield general principles and naturalseeming laws;
(c) another distinguishing mark of unnatural scientists is their faith in the efficacy of statistical formulae, particularly when processed by a computer -- the use of which is in itself interpreted as a mark of scientific manhood. There is no need to cause offence by specifying the unnatural sciences, for their practitioners will recognize themselves easily: the shoe belongs where it fits.

The objections of the educated to IQ psychology arise from several sets of causes: first, misgivings about whether it is indeed possible to attach a single-number valuation to an endowment as complex and as various as intelligence; second, a biologically wellfounded feeling of repugnance to the notion that differences of intelligence are to so high a degree under genetic control that all

-144-

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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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