Quotations about   scientific method

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Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can — if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong — to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition. In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“Cargo Cult Science,” commencement address, California Institute of Technology (1974)
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Added on 22-Jan-20 | Last updated 22-Jan-20
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Don’t you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don’t you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?

No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.

One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out “Don’t you believe in anything?”

“Yes”, I said. “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
The Roving Mind (1983)

See Carl Sagan.
Added on 2-Aug-16 | Last updated 2-Aug-16
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Science, my lad, has been built upon many errors; but they are errors which it was good to fall into, for they led to the truth.

[La science, mon garçon, est faite d’erreurs, mais d’erreurs qu’il est bon de commettre, car elles mènent peu à peu à la vérité.]

Verne - science and error - wist_info quote

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Journey to the Center of the Earth, ch. 31 (1864) [tr. Malleson (1877)]
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Alt. trans.: "Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth."
Added on 4-Mar-16 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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Indeed, proof that a given condition always precedes or accompanies a phenomenon does not warrant concluding with certainty that a given condition is the immediate cause of that phenomenon. It must still be established that when this condition is removed, the phenomenon will no longer appear.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878) French physiologist, scientist
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine [Introduction à l’Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale] (1865)
Added on 30-Jan-15 | Last updated 30-Jan-15
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Theories are only verified hypotheses, verified by more or less numerous facts. Those verified by the most facts are the best, but even then they are never final, never to be absolutely believed.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878) French physiologist, scientist
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine [Introduction à l’Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale] (1865)
Added on 23-Jan-15 | Last updated 23-Jan-15
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Science, my lad, has been built upon many errors; but they are errors which is was good to fall into, for they led to the truth.

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Journey to the Center of the Earth [Voyage au centre de la Terre], ch. 30 [Liedenbrock] (1864)
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Alt. trans.: "Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth."
Added on 30-Dec-14 | Last updated 30-Dec-14
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What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?

Steven Novella (b. 1964) American clinical neurologist, academic, skeptic
The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Podcast, #292 (16 Feb 2011)
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Added on 24-Jun-14 | Last updated 24-Jun-14
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The great and peculiar benefit which a fair course of scientific study confers, even on those who do not follow it as a profession, is that it compels such a firm and entire faith in our mental processes, so far as their range extends, that it teaches us what this range is, and enables us to distinguish between the natural and the artificial limitations of man’s powers. And let me bid you remember that this faith does not rest upon mere testimony, however respectable, however solemnly supported. The works of science are her witness. Her age of inspiration and of miracles is not over, but beginning, and its duration will be coeval with that of the intellect of man. Nor is access to her deepest secrets restricted to a race or to a priesthood. Every man can, if he pleases, apply to the sources of all scientific knowledge directly, and verify for himself the conclusions of others. In science, faith is based solely on the assent of the intellect; and the most complete submission to ascertained truth is wholly voluntary, because it is accompanied by perfect freedom, nay, by every encouragement, to test and try that truth to the uttermost.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
“Science and Religion,” lecture (Dec 1858)
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Quoted in The Government School of Mines, The Builder (Jan 1859)
Added on 31-Jan-14 | Last updated 31-Jan-14
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The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
“On the Advisableness of Improving Natural Knowledge” (1870)
Added on 18-Dec-13 | Last updated 18-Dec-13
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That is the essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
The Ascent of Man ch. 4 (1973)
Added on 20-Nov-13 | Last updated 1-Dec-15
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But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in Cargo Cult Science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school — we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid — not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked — to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“Cargo Cult Science,” commencement address, California Institute of Technology (1974)
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Added on 1-Nov-07 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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The inexperienced, and crackpots, and people like that, make guesses that are simple, but you can immediately see that they are wrong, so that does not count. Others, the inexperienced students, make guesses that are very complicated, and it sort of looks as if it is all right, but I know it is not true because the truth always turns out to be simpler than you thought.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
The Character of Physical Law, ch 7 “Seeking New Laws” (1965)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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