Mixing Memory

The Book of Nature

Here’s an article from Physics Web (via 3 Quarks Daily) that seems appropriate, in the context of the last two posts. Here’s the conclusion of the article:

But the image of the book of nature can haunt us today. One reason is that it implies the existence of an ultimate coherent truth – a complete text or “final theory”. While many scientists may believe this, it is ultimately only a belief, and it is far likelier that we will endlessly find more in nature as our concepts and technology continue to evolve. Furthermore, the image suggests that the “text” of the book of nature has a divine origin. The idea that the world was the oeuvre of a superhuman author was the precursor of the idea that it was the engineering project of an intelligent designer. This implication has led some contemporary sociologists of science to succumb to the temptation of characterizing scientists as behaving, and seeking to behave, in a priest-like manner.

The most important lesson to be found in Galileo’s image is the need to keep developing and revising the metaphors with which we speak about science.

Read the whole thing.


  1. #1 llewelly
    January 6, 2007

    From Crease’s essay, I infer that scientism, as defined in your previous post, is the cultural equivalent of an optical illusion; observers see scientism not because it is real, but because our culture predisposes us to expect knowledge to come from priest-like figures. That is not, as I see it, Crease’s critical point, but that is the light that it casts on your previous posts about Dawkins and scientism.

  2. #2 Caledonian
    January 6, 2007

    It captures our sense that nature’s truths are somehow imposed on us that they are already imprinted in the world

    Our ‘sense’ that reality exists? That there are realities that can act upon us without our creating them?

    This isn’t just a failure to apply critical thought, it’s a failure of thought itself.

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