“Science Is Not a Body of Infallible Work, of Immutable Laws”

(p. 1) . . . , “Failure: Why Science Is So Successful” is a breath of contemplative fresh air. Stuart ­Fire­stein, a professor in the department of biological sciences at Columbia University, is best known for his work on ignorance, including inviting scientists to speak to his students about what they don’t know. In a tone reminiscent of Lewis Thomas’s “The Lives of a Cell,” the book is a collection of loosely interwoven meditations on failure and scientific method.
. . .
If we succeed by failing, then we should be freed from the monolithic road to academic tenure; science should be taught as an adventure in failure. With a delightful combination of feigned naïveté and keen eye for the messy ways that great discoveries occur, he goes so far as to suggest writing a grant proposal in which you promise to fail better. He knows this isn’t how the world works, but nevertheless argues that change will take place “when we cease, or at least reduce, our devotion to facts and collections of them, when we decide that science education is not a memorization marathon, when we — scientists and nonscientists — recognize that science is not a body of infallible work, of immutable laws of facts. . . . And that most of what there is to know is still unknown.”

For the full review, see:
ROBERT A. BURTON. “Error Messages.”The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., Jan. 3, 2016): 8.
(Note: first two ellipses added; third ellipsis in original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date DEC. 29, 2015, and has the title “‘Black Box Thinking’ and ‘Failure: Why Science Is So Successful’.”)

The book under review, is:
Firestein, Stuart. Failure: Why Science Is So Successful. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

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