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Wed, Nov. 23rd, 2005, 01:37 pm
lil_goat: Chapter 4

In chapter 4, Wilson explained that the process of natural selection supplies organisms with only those adaptations that are necessary for maximal fitness. This explains why humans do not have the ability to use echolocation like bats or the ability to see the entire spectrum of light. However, Wilson pointed out that humans did evolve to be curious and creative. Developments in technology such as the microscope have allowed us to see the smallest components of organisms with our own eyes.

Wilson explained his three criteria for scientific revolutions. They are creativity and curiosity, the power to decipher and create abstract information and the universal power of mathematics in nature. These three components led to great advances in technology which allow humans to continue to discover new knowledge and reduce existing knowledge to its smaller components.

According to Wilson, reductionism is the main goal of science. He refutes critics of the practice by saying that reductionism not an obsessive and pointless practice, but instead it is a means to understanding complexity.

Wilson then went on to describe the importance of scientific theories. Without theories, the data we collect makes no sense. Scientific theories differ from other theories because they are constructed to be falsifiable. They are the product of informed imagination.

According to Wilson, scientific ideas should be repeatable- that is, replicable. They should be economical rather than overly complex. They should use proper measurement to ensure generalizability, they should be heuristic to stimulate further discovery and finally, they should be consiliant.

Next, Wilson described scientists. Wilson argued that to many people, a successful scientist is one who makes an important discovery, or better yet, many important discoveries. Wilson complained that many scientists feel that if their names have not made it into college level textbooks, they are invisible to the world. Scholars who spend their lives philosophizing, reading, learning and sharing their knowledge are looked down upon and those who do not publish, perish. He touched on the idea that as a scientific community, we focus too much on the product and not enough on the process.

Finally, Wilson explained his views that the most important job of a scientist is to search for Truth with a capital “t”. He even went so far as to suggest that it may be possible to one day reach this goal, if we use empirical investigation and continue to search.

I was especially wary of this last section. I am not comfortable with Wilson’s position that Truth is attainable. I think that a more moderate statement would have made me less uncomfortable. I might agree that it is possible that with advances in scientific tools, we might someday come closer to Truth with a capital “t” but I find his position to be too strong.