An oversized feather now adorns John Brockman’s cap for grabbing the front page of this weekend’s Review section in the Wall Street Journal. Brockman’s Edge poses a question for deep thinkers like Steven Pinker to ponder each year. Pinker in fact gets first billing among the six short vignettes that the Journal has chosen to showcase the 203 responses. Brockman prefaces the compendium with a brief commentary about science which includes the following passage:
“Many people, even many scientists, have traditionally had a narrow view of science as controlled, replicated experiments performed in the laboratory—and as consisting quintessentially of physics, chemistry, and molecular biology. The essence of science is conveyed by its Latin etymology: scientia, meaning knowledge. The scientific method is simply that body of practices best suited for obtaining reliable knowledge. The practices vary among fields: the controlled laboratory experiment is possible in molecular biology, physics, and chemistry, but it is either impossible, immoral, or illegal in many other fields customarily considered sciences, including all of the historical sciences: astronomy, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, most of the earth sciences, and paleontology. If the scientific method can be defined as those practices best suited for obtaining knowledge in a particular field, then science itself is simply the body of knowledge obtained by those practices.”
The Edge Question assembled for 2017 is: “What scientific terms or concept ought to be more widely known?”
And the weighty answers can be found here.