Category Archive: Consilience

Abacus: 1999.

The unity of the sciences

The only way either to establish or to refute consilience is by methods developed in the natural sciences — not, I hasten to add, an effort led by scientists, or frozen in mathematical abstraction, but rather one allegiant to the habits of thought that have worked so well in exploring the material universe.

The belief in the possibility of consilience beyond science and across the great branches of learning is not yet science. It is a metaphysical world view, and a minority one at that, shared by only a few scientists and philosophers. It cannot be proved with logic from first principles or grounded in any definitive set of empirical tests, at least not by any yet conceived. Its best support is no more than an extrapolation of the consistent past success of the natural sciences. Its surest test will be its effectiveness in the social sciences and humanities. The strongest appeal of consilience is in the prospect of intellectual adventure and, given even modest success, the value of understanding the human condition with a higher degree of certainty. [7]