Ignorance: How It Drives Science
Knowledge is a big subject, says Stuart Firestein, but ignorance is a bigger one. And it is ignorance--not knowledge--that is the true engine of science. Most of us have a false impression of science as a surefire, deliberate, step-by-step method for finding things out and getting things done. In fact, says Firestein, more often than not, science is like looking for a black cat in a dark room, and there may not be a cat in the room. The process is more hit-or-miss than you might imagine, with much stumbling and groping after phantoms. But it is exactly this "not knowing," this puzzling over thorny questions or inexplicable data, that gets researchers into the lab early and keeps them there late, the thing that propels them, the very driving force of science. Firestein shows how scientists use ignorance to program their work, to identify what should be done, what the next steps are, and where they should concentrate their energies. And he includes a catalog of how scientists use ignorance, consciously or unconsciously--a remarkable range of approaches that includes looking for connections to other research, revisiting apparently settled questions, using small questions to get at big ones, and tackling a problem simply out of curiosity. The book concludes with four case histories--in cognitive psychology, theoretical physics, astronomy, and neuroscience--that provide a feel for the nuts and bolts of ignorance, the day-to-day battle that goes on in scientific laboratories and in scientific minds with questions that range from the quotidian to the profound. Turning the conventional idea about science on its head, Ignorance opens a new window on the true nature of research. It is a must-read for anyone curious about science.
What people are saying - Write a review
Ignorance: How It Drives ScienceUser Review - Gregg Sapp - Book Verdict
Who would've guessed that Einstein and Darwin were really just more ignorant than their peers? Firestein (biological science, Columbia Univ.) teaches a college course called Ignorance, and he here ... Read full review
Other editions - View all
Abbott actually Alan Hodgkin Alex animals answer appear astronomers behavior biology black cats called cells Clever Hans cognitive complex consciousness course critical dark room David Hilbert discovery Einstein Erwin Schrödinger especially example experimental experiments fact field fundamental glimpse Gödel graduate students grant proposals happens Helfand Hilbert human brain hypothesis ideas ignorance imagine important insight interesting J. B. S. Haldane knowledge known Kurt Gödel laboratory least Leibniz less limits look mathematician mathematics measure memory mind mirror model system neurons neuroscience neuroscientists never Nicholas Rescher Nonetheless olfaction olfactory system Parkinson’s patients perhaps perspective physicist physics predict problem quantum mechanics questions Rebecca Goldstein Reiss result retina scientific scientists seems selfawareness sense sensory sensory systems simple smell spikes strategy synapses talk teaching things thought understand unintuitive universe unknown Weizmann what’s wrong