“On the Perils of Having the Right Answer”
The common view of science as being certain and inerrant leads to dangerous misunderstandings of the nature of scientific knowledge and methods. This paper discusses these dangers and presents a case study from the history of astrophysics to show how uncertainty functions within scientific practice. The case is made that grasping the role of uncertainty will make the social position of science stronger.
||Public Understanding of Science, Uncertainty in Science, History and Philosophy of Science, Astrophysics
The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.271-284.
Article: Print (Spiral Bound).
Article: Electronic (PDF File; 562.432KB).
Associate Professor, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University, New York, New York, USA
Matthew Stanley teaches and researches the history and philosophy of science. He holds degrees in astronomy, religion, physics, and the history of science and is interested in the connections between science and the wider culture. He is the author of Practical Mystic: Religion, Science, and A. S. Eddington, which examines how scientists reconcile their religious beliefs and professional lives. Currently, he is writing a book that explores how science changed from its historical theistic foundations to its modern naturalistic ones. Professor Stanley is also part of a nationwide NSF-funded effort to use the humanities to improve science education in the college classroom. He has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, the British Academy, and the Max Planck Institute.