Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Thoughts: On Errors and Being Wrong

The Baconian view of science is that we should collect all of the possible data and then we should shake it about and see what scientific laws come out form the mixture. It was a stimulus for modern empirical science but the method has long been abandoned. Now we systematically create experiments where we can test a pre-arranged hypothesis. There are still some disciplines that depend on observational studies such as medicine and the social sciences but the other sciences have become experimental.

Anyway one of Bacons dicta was;

"Truth emerges more readily from Error than Confusion"

To a hacker this has become program and be damned. The idea that sometimes it is better to get out a work in progress with some bugs in it rather than to design and design and to never get there.

Linus Pauling was once asked how he had so many good ideas and he replied that he had lots of ideas and then threw away the bad ones. I first heard this as him saying that he had lots of bad ones (his model of DNA is one example and his excessive belief in mega-dosage vitamin C another).

We never have a complete argument, we never can start with the finished product, you can never write the perfect theory or the perfect lesson or create anything else the first time. Everything should be considered "Work in Progress".

I just think that now in Biology we are again at the same point that we were in Chemistry and Physics in Bacon's time. We have a lot of facts and data and we have some information but we need some sort of paradigm to turn it into knowledge, and for all of the expertise in the world at the minute all we are doing is stamp-collecting.

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