Scientific Thought Quotes (17 quotes)
Anything at all that can be the object of scientific thought becomes dependent on the axiomatic method, and thereby indirectly on mathematics, as soon as it is ripe for the formation of a theory. By pushing ahead to ever deeper layers of axioms … we become ever more conscious of the unity of our knowledge. In the sign of the axiomatic method, mathematics is summoned to a leading role in science.
In scientific thought we adopt the simplest theory which will explain all the facts under consideration and enable us to predict new facts of the same kind. The catch in this criterion lies in the world “simplest.” It is really an aesthetic canon such as we find implicit in our criticisms of poetry or painting. The layman finds such a law as dx/dt = κ(d²x/dy²) much less simple than “it oozes,” of which it is the mathematical statement. The physicist reverses this judgment, and his statement is certainly the more fruitful of the two, so far as prediction is concerned. It is, however, a statement about something very unfamiliar to the plain man, namely the rate of change of a rate of change.
Liebig taught the world two great lessons. The first was that in order to teach chemistry it was necessary that students should be taken into a laboratory. The second lesson was that he who is to apply scientific thought and method to industrial problems must have a thorough knowledge of the sciences. The world learned the first lesson more readily than it learned the second.
MOLECULE, n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. It is distinguished from the corpuscle, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter, by a closer resemblance to the atom, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. Three great scientific theories of the structure of the universe are the molecular, the corpuscular and the atomic. A fourth affirms, with Haeckel, the condensation or precipitation of matter from ether—whose existence is proved by the condensation or precipitation. The present trend of scientific thought is toward the theory of ions. The ion differs from the molecule, the corpuscle and the atom in that it is an ion. A fifth theory is held by idiots, but it is doubtful if they know any more about the matter than the others.
Remember that [scientific thought] is the guide of action; that the truth which it arrives at is not that which we can ideally contemplate without error, but that which we may act upon without fear; and you cannot fail to see that scientific thought is not an accompaniment or condition of human progress, but human progress itself.
Scientific modes of thought cannot be developed and become generally accepted unless people renounce their primary, unreflecting, and spontaneous attempt to understand all their experience in terms of its purpose and meaning for themselves. The development that led to more adequate knowledge and increasing control of nature was therefore, considered from one aspect, also a development toward greater self-control by men.
Scientific thought is the common heritage of mankind.
The aim of scientific thought, then, is to apply past experience to new circumstances; the instrument is an observed uniformity in the course of events. By the use of this instrument it gives us information transcending our experience, it enables us to infer things that we have not seen from things that we have seen; and the evidence for the truth of that information depends on our supposing that the uniformity holds good beyond our experience.
The history of mathematics is important also as a valuable contribution to the history of civilization. Human progress is closely identified with scientific thought. Mathematical and physical researches are a reliable record of intellectual progress.
The progress of Science consists in observing interconnections and in showing with a patient ingenuity that the events of this ever-shifting world are but examples of a few general relations, called laws. To see what is general in what is particular, and what is permanent in what is transitory, is the aim of scientific thought.
The value of fundamental research does not lie only in the ideas it produces. There is more to it. It affects the whole intellectual life of a nation by determining its way of thinking and the standards by which actions and intellectual production are judged. If science is highly regarded and if the importance of being concerned with the most up-to-date problems of fundamental research is recognized, then a spiritual climate is created which influences the other activities. An atmosphere of creativity is established which penetrates every cultural frontier. Applied sciences and technology are forced to adjust themselves to the highest intellectual standards which are developed in the basic sciences. This influence works in many ways: some fundamental students go into industry; the techniques which are applied to meet the stringent requirements of fundamental research serve to create new technological methods. The style, the scale, and the level of scientific and technical work are determined in pure research; that is what attracts productive people and what brings scientists to those countries where science is at the highest level. Fundamental research sets the standards of modern scientific thought; it creates the intellectual climate in which our modern civilization flourishes. It pumps the lifeblood of idea and inventiveness not only into the technological laboratories and factories, but into every cultural activity of our time. The case for generous support for pure and fundamental science is as simple as that.
We may need simple and heroic legends for that peculiar genre of literature known as the textbook. But historians must also labor to rescue human beings from their legends in science–if only so that we may understand the process of scientific thought aright.
We must also teach science not as the bare body of fact, but more as human endeavor in its historic context—in the context of the effects of scientific thought on every kind of thought. We must teach it as an intellectual pursuit rather than as a body of tricks.
Whenever we pride ourselves upon finding a newer, stricter way of thought or exposition; whenever we start insisting too hard upon “operationalism” or symbolic logic or any other of these very essential systems of tramlines, we lose something of the ability to think new thoughts. And equally, of course, whenever we rebel against the sterile rigidity of formal thought and exposition and let our ideas run wild, we likewise lose. As I see it, the advances in scientific thought come from a combination of loose and strict thinking, and this combination is the most precious tool of science.
[Euclid's Elements] has been for nearly twenty-two centuries the encouragement and guide of that scientific thought which is one thing with the progress of man from a worse to a better state. The encouragement; for it contained a body of knowledge that was really known and could be relied on, and that moreover was growing in extent and application. For even at the time this book was written—shortly after the foundation of the Alexandrian Museum—Mathematics was no longer the merely ideal science of the Platonic school, but had started on her career of conquest over the whole world of Phenomena. The guide; for the aim of every scientific student of every subject was to bring his knowledge of that subject into a form as perfect as that which geometry had attained. Far up on the great mountain of Truth, which all the sciences hope to scale, the foremost of that sacred sisterhood was seen, beckoning for the rest to follow her. And hence she was called, in the dialect of the Pythagoreans, ‘the purifier of the reasonable soul.’
… scientific thought does not mean thought about scientific subjects with long names. There are no scientific subjects. The subject of science is the human universe; that is to say, everything that is, or has been, or may be related to man.
…The present revolution of scientific thought follows in natural sequence on the great revolutions at earlier epochs in the history of science. Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which explains the indeterminateness of the frame of space and time, crowns the work of Copernicus who first led us to give up our insistence on a geocentric outlook on nature; Einstein's general theory of relativity, which reveals the curvature or non-Euclidean geometry of space and time, carries forward the rudimentary thought of those earlier astronomers who first contemplated the possibility that their existence lay on something which was not flat. These earlier revolutions are still a source of perplexity in childhood, which we soon outgrow; and a time will come when Einstein’s amazing revelations have likewise sunk into the commonplaces of educated thought.