Science - Scientific Practice

Scientific Practice

"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties." —Francis Bacon (1605) The Advancement of Learning, Book 1, v, 8

A skeptical point of view, demanding a method of proof, was the practical position taken as early as 1000 years ago, with Alhazen, Doubts Concerning Ptolemy, through Bacon (1605), and C. S. Peirce (1839–1914), who note that a community will then spring up to address these points of uncertainty. The methods of inquiry into a problem have been known for thousands of years, and extend beyond theory to practice. The use of measurements, for example, are a practical approach to settle disputes in the community.

John Ziman points out that intersubjective pattern recognition is fundamental to the creation of all scientific knowledge. Ziman shows how scientists can identify patterns to each other across centuries: Needham 1954 (illustration facing page 164) shows how today's trained Western botanist can identify Artemisia alba from images taken from a 16th c. Chinese pharmacopia, and Ziman refers to this ability as 'perceptual consensibility'. Ziman then makes consensibility, leading to consensus, the touchstone of reliable knowledge.

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