Irrelevance Quotes (4 quotes)
Occurrences that other men would have noted only with the most casual interest became for Whitney exciting opportunities to experiment. Once he became disturbed by a scientist's seemingly endless pursuit of irrelevant details in the course of an experiment, and criticized this as being as pointless as grabbing beans out of a pot, recording the numbers, and then analyzing the results. Later that day, after he had gone home, his simile began to intrigue him, and he asked himself whether it would really be pointless to count beans gathered in such a random manner. Another man might well have dismissed this as an idle fancy, but to Whitney an opportunity to conduct an experiment was not to be overlooked. Accordingly, he set a pot of beans beside his bed, and for several days each night before retiring he would take as many beans as he could grasp in one hand and make a note of how many were in the handful. After several days had passed he was intrigued to find that the results were not as unrewarding as he had expected. He found that each handful contained more beans than the one before, indicating that with practice he was learning to grasp more and more beans. This might be called research in morphology, the science of animal structure, he mused. My hand was becoming webbed so I said to myself: never label a real experiment useless, it may reveal something unthought of but worth knowing.
On graduating from school, a studious young man who would withstand the tedium and monotony of his duties has no choice but to lose himself in some branch of science or literature completely irrelevant to his assignment.
The question of relevance comes before that of truth, because to ask whether a statement is true or false presupposes that it is relevant (so that to try to assert the truth or falsity of an irrelevant statement is a form of confusion)...
This irrelevance of molecular arrangements for macroscopic results has given rise to the tendency to confine physics and chemistry to the study of homogeneous systems as well as homogeneous classes. In statistical mechanics a great deal of labor is in fact spent on showing that homogeneous systems and homogeneous classes are closely related and to a considerable extent interchangeable concepts of theoretical analysis (Gibbs theory). Naturally, this is not an accident. The methods of physics and chemistry are ideally suited for dealing with homogeneous classes with their interchangeable components. But experience shows that the objects of biology are radically inhomogeneous both as systems (structurally) and as classes (generically). Therefore, the method of biology and, consequently, its results will differ widely from the method and results of physical science.