The Limits of Science

The Limits of Science

3.75 (36 ratings by Goodreads)
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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).show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 128 pages
  • 127 x 193.04 x 15.24mm | 22.68g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0192830481
  • 9780192830487

Review Text

Sharp-tongued and incisive as ever, Medawar explores the very pith of science in a series of short chapters - deliberately brief, because he himself found maximum insights in similar exercises in brevity (Shelley's Defense of Poetry, Descartes' Discours), and not from such as the writings of Alfred North Whitehead. Medawar's aim is to clarify for lay readers what science is, who practices it, and what limits there are to the pursuit. Much of the first concern echoes the format of Aristotle to Zoos: brief paragraphs that discourse on science and unintelligibility, science and culture, science and the "Mandarins' Fingernails" (laying to rest the notion that exalts "pure" over "applied" science). In general, Medawar presents science as an imaginative pursuit dependent on prepared minds who choose the field because they're curious and can make those "happy guesses" that lead to experimental testing. Out the window go notions of logical procedure or foolproof methodology - hence out the window go ideas that scientific discoveries can be dictated in advance. There are some wonderful examples of happy guesses and unexpected findings (particularly from Medawar's own field of immunology). As for the limits, there's a twofold answer: no limits if the questions are the sort science can address - researchable questions to be tested against reality; but yes, limits if the questions concern the nature, origin, and destiny of man, or problems of evil and such, for which myth, religion, or "imaginative literature" are appropriate resources. For scientists, there are no surprises in what's said - but there's pleasure for everyone in the way it's said. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

"An Essay on Scians"; "Can Scientific Discovery be Premeditated?"; "The Limits of Science"; abstract - plus ultra?, is the growth of science self-limited?, is there an intrinsic limitation upon the growth of science?, where plus ultra prevails?, where then shall we turn?, the purpose of transcendent explanation and whether religion fulills it, the question of the existence of more

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36 ratings
3.75 out of 5 stars
5 22% (8)
4 44% (16)
3 19% (7)
2 14% (5)
1 0% (0)
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