(12 Jul 1813 - 10 Feb 1878)
Claude Bernard - Make experiments to … control our ideas
Illustrated Quote - Medium (500 x 350 px)
This quote by Claude Bernard appears in his native French in his book Introduction à l'étude de la médecine expérimentale (1865), as “Il ne fallait jamais faire des expériences pour confirmer ses idées, mais simplement pour les contrôler.” The version in English appeared in a translation by Henry Copley Green, An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1957). In his original text, Bernard footnoted that he had previously expressed this idea in Leçons sur les propriétés et les altérations des liquides de l’organisme (1859), Première leçon.
In the translation, we can read a more complete quote:
“Men who have excessive faith in their theories or ideas are not only ill prepared for making discoveries; they also make very poor observations.
Of necessity, they observe with a preconceived idea, and when they devise an experiment, they can see, in its results, only a confirmation of their theory. In this way they distort observation and often neglect very important facts because they do not further their aim. This is what made us say elsewhere that
Bernard continues: “But it happens further quite naturally that men who believe too firmly in their theories, do not believe enough in the theories of others.
Sadly, these words written by Bernard 150 years ago still ring so true in our time. For example, consider how climate change deniers of today selectively cherry-pick data to support their preconceived intended outcome. Read Bernard’s words above with this modern example in mind, and you may better understand how he was writing about the struggles he knew for valid theories based carefully on facts to prevail against the deniers of his own time.
- Science Quotes by Claude Bernard.
- 12 Jul - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Bernard's birth.
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