Re: Pasteur quote

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Fri Dec 28 2001 - 16:03:37 EST

  • Next message: Walter Hicks: "Re: Pasteur quote"

    >From: John W Burgeson <>

    > A Metanexus article today includes this quote: "In one short sentence he
    > (Pasteur) proclaimed a motto for Science: "Do not posit anything that you
    > cannot prove by experimentation."

    This statement is too narrow and subject to misunderstanding; at minimum,
    the word "prove" should be replaced with "evaluate" or "test."

    > A somewhat similar statement was made by Lord Kelvin: "When you can
    > measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know
    > something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot
    > express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory
    > kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you
    > have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science."

    Again, too narrow and misleading.

    > It would seem that a strict demarcationist might, on the basis of these
    > two statements, have some difficulties with the Grand Evolutionary
    > (microbe to man) theory. How would such a person be answered?

    Try this for starters:

    Natural science is a disciplined and systematic human activity that includes
    observation, measurement, experimentation, theory formulation and theory
    evaluation. Activity in any one of these categories is likely to stimulate
    fruitful action in the others. The goal of the natural sciences is to
    understand what our physical universe is like, how it functions, and how it
    got to be the way it now is. To that end the sciences seek to craft theories
    that give an adequate/satisfying account of what can be observed
    (qualitative) and measured (quantitative) in our world.

    Given this concept of the natural sciences, the formulation and evaluation
    of the Grand Evolutionary Theory on the basis of what can now be observed
    and/or measured falls well within the scientific domain.

    Howard Van Till

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