The Limits of Science

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9780060390365: The Limits of Science

"Science," writes Sir Peter Medawar, "is incomparably the most successful enterprise human beings have ever engaged upon." In this brief, brilliant book the Nobel laureate explores the nature and limitations of scientific pursuit. The three essays included touch on some of the largest questions known to man: Can science determine the existence of God? Is there one "scientific method" by which all the secrets of the universe can be discovered?
In "An Essay on Scians" (an early spelling of "science"), Medawar examines the process of scientific inquiry. Debunking the common belief that science is inductively structured, he claims that great leaps of imagination are required to determine the laws of nature and likens the process of scientific hypothesis to the creative acts of poets and artists. The question posed in "Can Scientific Discovery Be Premeditated?" is answered with a firm no. Sir Peter stresses the role of luck in the history of science and cites as examples of un-premeditated discoveries those of X-rays, HLA polymorphism, and the nature of the disease myasthenia gravis. In the title essay, Medawar distinguishes between "transcendent" questions, which are better left to religion, literature, and metaphysics, and questions about the organization and structure of the material universe. With regard to the latter, he concludes, there are no limits to the possibilities of scientific achievement. "This is science's greatest glory," writes Medawar, "for it entails that everything which is possible in principle can be done if the intention to do it is sufficiently resolute and long sustained."

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Product Description:

Written by the 1960 Nobel Prize winner in the field of immunology, this volume explores the nature and limitations of scientific pursuit. The three essays touch on some of mankind's greatest questions: Can science determine the existence of God? Is there one "scientific method" by which all the secrets of the universe can be discovered? The book aims to define the limits of science. The author's central purpose is to exculpate science from the reproach that it is quite unable to answer those ultimate questions that he shows to be beyond its explanatory competence. This charge, he argues, is "no more sensible than to reproach a railway locomotive for not flying". But in spite of this he believes science to be a great and glorious enterprise - the most successful that human beings have ever engaged in. Peter Medawar is the author of "Advice to a Young Scientist", "Pluto's Republic", "Memoir of a Thinking Radish" and "Aristotle to Zoos" (with Jean Medawar).

About the Author:


About the Author:
Sir Peter Medawar, who won the Nobel Prize with Sir Macfarlane Burnet in 1960 for demonstrating the possibility of transplanting tissues between genetically different organisms, is the author of Pluto's Republic, Memoirs of a Thinking Radish, and numerous other books.

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