Scientific DiscoveryPosted: January 18, 2010
When reading a book about Chaos Theory, i am also getting aglimpse into the history of science and the world of scientists. And it doesnt seem to be close to what you imagine it to be as a school student, studying science. The world we see as students is a completely ordered world where one thing logically leads to another and hence the process of experimentation is about logical deductions, arriving at questions to ask based on these deductions and then simply applying theory and experiments to find answers to these questions.
The world of science, from what i am reading, seems to be quite different from this. It is not so simple or logical, but rather, is made of coincidences, accidents, chance and a number of things which cannot be logically determined. A number of scientific discoveries are not really the result of pure scientific methods but rather that of a messy, human process. This is to be expected because even though stereotypes picture scientists as some form of sub-human un-cool nerdy types, they are actually as human as they come.
What is more interesting is the questions scientists seek answers to. How does a scientist decide which question they are interested in. This defines the areas of science they would devote themselves to. What i am talking about here is that the idea of ”spirit of science” is probably not as much as it is made out to be. Scientific discoveries are not the well-structured discoveries arrived at through a well-structured process of logical deduction from one point to another. Rather there is something ”messy” about the process.
That to my mind is something which makes sense. We have over a period of time come to understand the nature of human knowledge and come to understand that human knowledge is not codified and indexed but rather is somewhat messy and the chain of thought which leads one from one thought to another is not always well-defined. If it were there probably wouldnt be any aha moments. And if it is messy then it is to be expected that the process of knowledge-creation, discovery and assimilation also needs to be somewhat ”messy” or rather, not so well-structured.