Tag Archive: normal science

The plumber as scientist

As I have said before, I see in science (whenever I look at it in an evolutionary context) the conscious and critical form of an adaptive method of trial and error.

This is why I say that we (from the amoeba to Einstein) learn from our mistakes. This is also why I say that science–that is, scientific discovery—is “revolution in permanence”.

I do not mean by this that we cannot distinguish in science between ls of stagnation (as Watkins calls them) and more revolutionary and progressive periods; or that all periods are permanently “revolutionary” in that sense in which we speak of a Copernican, a Galilean, a Newtonian, and Ensteinian “revolution”.

I mean something very different. I mean that even a minor discovery (it he made by an animal) is revolutionary. I mean that many engineers and blogists are minor or major revolutionaries. I mean, more precisely, established beliefs (or routines) are overthrown every day. Sometimes are major discoveries: more often they are very minor discoveries. The heating engineer who faces the problem of how to install a central heating system required to work under unusual conditions may just apply his established rules of thumb, and thus fail to solve the problem: in the face of failure he may depart from his routine and (after eliminating several possible solutions) arrive at a critical solution of his problem. He will have as an applied scientist in my sense of the word, and he will have made a discovery by critical thinking, by the critical rejection of erroneous solutions. [1147]

A world in which nothing ever went wrong

Stapel released a written statement (in Dutch) today to the press, which he also delivered in a 2-minute video recorded by Dutch public television. He does not address the report directly, but says:

I feel deep, deep remorse for the pain I have caused others. I feel a great deal of sadness, shame and self-blame. The truth would have been better off without me.

I have created a world in which almost nothing ever went wrong, and everything was an understandable success. The world was perfect: exactly as expected, predicted, dreamed. In a strange, naive way I thought I was doing everybody a favor with this. That I was helping people.