Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stories That Work

Nathan Myhrvold eloquently points to The Scientific Method as his favorite deep, elegant or beautiful explanation in his response to Edge's 2012 Annual Question. In the conclusion to his response, however,  one finds him unusually off guard. It has an "analogous to evolution" argument that plays straight into the hands of creationists since the explanation behind evolution is itself obtained by the favored method. Excerpt here:
It's hard to overestimate the importance of the scientific method. Human culture contains much more than science—but science is the part that actually works—the rest is just stories. The rationally based inquiry the scientific method enables is what has given us science and technology and vastly different lifestyles than those of our hunter-gatherers ancestors. In some sense it is analogous to evolution. The sum of millions of small mutations separate us from single celled like blue-green algae. Each had to survive the test of selection and work better than the previous state in the sense of biological fitness. Human knowledge is the accumulation of millions of stories-that-work, each of which had to survive the test of the scientific method, matching observation and experiment more than the predecessors. Both evolution and science have taken us a long way, but looking forward it is clear that science will take us much farther.

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