October 27, 2006
THE EXPANDING THIRD CULTURE
John Brockman in Edge:
Many people, even many scientists, have a narrow view of science as controlled, replicated experiments performed in the laboratory—and as consisting quintessentially of physics, chemistry, and molecular biology.
The essence of science is conveyed by its Latin etymology: scientia, meaning knowledge. The scientific method is simply that body of practices best suited for obtaining reliable knowledge. The practices vary among fields: the controlled laboratory experiment is possible in molecular biology, physics, and chemistry, but it is either impossible, immoral, or illegal in many other fields customarily considered sciences, including all of the historical sciences: astronomy, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, most of the earth sciences, and paleontology.
Just as science—that is, reliable methods for obtaining knowledge—has encroached on areas formerly considered to belong to the humanities (such as psychology), science is also encroaching on the social sciences, especially economics, geography, history, and political science. Humanities scholars and historians who spurn it condemn themselves to second-rate status and produce unreliable results. But this doesn't have to be the case. What can we do about this situation? We can start by asking a question.
Here is my question, the question I am asking myself, a question we can ask each other:
Why does society benefit from an accurate representation of knowledge?
Posted by Azra Raza at 06:43 AM | Permalink