The Molecular Basis of Evolution

By Christian B. Anfinsen | Go to book overview

GROUND RULES FOR THE READER

A prospectus of this book was circulated to a number of exports by the publisher before the actual job of writing was begun. The opinions received have been very helpful in establishing what I hope is the proper slant. One opinion, in particular, expressed a point of view so similar to my own that I have asked its author, Dr. William Stein, of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, for permission to reproduce it here.

It has always seemed to me, and I may be wrong in this, that when an expert communicates with the relatively non-expert, he has a responsibility to stay pretty close to the facts. An expert can speculate to other experts without scruple. They have the equipment to meet him on his own grounds, evaluate the evidence and accept or reject the speculation as they choose. The non-expert has no such basis for evaluation. He has to accept relatively uncritically what the expert tells him, and hypothesis and fact soon become confused in his mind. A plausible speculation--and the speculations of the true expert are always plausible--can soon masquerade successfully as gospel. In the present state of our ignorance, I would regard this as unfortunate. It would seem to me that a book such as this one should aim to stimulate thought and experiment among practicing scientists, and should not lull the uninitiated into thinking that we understand more than we do.

-xi-

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