For a scientist must indeed be freely imaginative and yet skeptical, creative and yet a critic. There is a sense in which he must be free, but another in which his thought must be very preceisely regimented; there is poetry in science, but also a lot of bookkeeping.— Peter Medawar
The most attractive Peter Medawar quotes that will inspire your inner self
The USA is so enormous, and so numerous are its schools, colleges and religious seminaries, many devoted to special religious beliefs ranging from the unorthodox to the dotty, that we can hardly wonder at its yielding a more bounteous harvest of gobbledygook than the rest of the world put together.
Is the Scientific Paper a Fraud?
Scientists are people of very dissimilar temperaments doing different things in very different ways. Among scientists are collectors, classifiers and compulsive tidiers-up; many are detectives by temperament and many are explorers; some are artists and others artisans. There are poet-scientists and philosopher-scientists and even a few mystics.
The purpose of scientific enquiry is not to compile an inventory of factual information, nor to build up a totalitarian world picture of natural Laws in which every event that is not compulsory is forbidden. We should think of it rather as a logically articulated structure of justifiable beliefs about nature.
The bells which toll for mankind are - most of them, anyway - like the bells of Alpine cattle; they are attached to our own necks, and it must be our fault if they do not make a cheerful and harmonious sound.
Psychoanalytic theory is the most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century and a terminal product as well-something akin to a dinosaur or zeppelin in the history of ideas, a vast structure of radically unsound design and with no posterity.
Today the world changes so quickly that in growing up we take leave not just of youth but of the world we were young in.
It is a common failing-and one that I have myself suffered from-to fall in love with a hypothesis and to be unwilling to take no for an answer. A love affair with a pet hypothesis can waste years of precious time. There is very often no finally decisive yes, though quite often there can be a decisive no.
I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of a conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing over whether it is true or not.
Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth.
I once spoke to a human geneticist who declared that the notion of intelligence was quite meaningless, so I tried calling him unintelligent. He was annoyed, and it did not appease him when I went on to ask how he came to attach such a clear meaning to the notion of lack of intelligence. We never spoke again.
The human mind treats a new idea the same way the body treats a strange protein; it rejects it.
If a scientist were to cut his ear off, no one would take it as evidence of a heightened sensibility.
[A certain class of explanations in science are] analgesics that dull the ache of incomprehension without removing the cause.
If politics is the art of the possible, research is surely the art of the soluble. Both are immensely practical-minded affairs.
Heredity proposes and development disposes.
The art of research [is] the art of making difficult problems soluble by devising means of getting at them.
When asked to make the formal declaration that I did not intend to overthrow the Constitution of the United States, I was fool enough to reply that I had no such purpose, but that were I to do it by mistake I should be inexpressibly contrite.
The fact that scientists do not consciously practice a formal methodology is very poor evidence that no such methodology exists. It could be said-has been said-that there is a distinctive methodology of science which scientists practice unwittingly, like the chap in Moliere who found that all his life, unknowingly, he had been speaking prose.
Considered in its entirety, psychoanalysis won't do.
It is an end product, moreover, like a dinosaur or a zeppelin; no better theory can ever be erected on its ruins, which will remain for ever one of the saddest and strangest of all landmarks in the history of twentieth century thought.
I do not believe indeed, I deem it a comic blunder to believe that the exercise of reason is sufficient to explain our condition and where necessary to remedy it, but I do believe that the exercise of reason is at all times necessary.
All scientists know of colleagues whose minds are so well equipped with the means of refutation that no new idea has the temerity to seek admittance. Their contribution to science is accordingly very small.
The intensity of a conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or false. The importance of the strength of our conviction is only to provide a proportionately strong incentive to find out if the hypothesis will stand up to critical evaluation.
An experiment not worth doing is not worth doing well.
The attempt to discover and promulgate the truth is nevertheless an obligation upon all scientists, one that must be persevered in no matter what the rebuffs—for otherwise what is the point in being a scientist?
It is ... a sign of the times-though our brothers of physics and chemistry may smile to hear me say so-that biology is now a science in which theories can be devised: theories which lead to predictions and predictions which sometimes turn out to be correct. These facts confirm me in a belief I hold most passionately-that biology is the heir of all the sciences.
You have ... been told that science grows like an organism. You have been told that, if we today see further than our predecessors, it is only because we stand on their shoulders. But this [Nobel Prize Presentation] is an occasion on which I should prefer to remember, not the giants upon whose shoulders we stood, but the friends with whom we stood arm in arm ... colleagues in so much of my work.
To deride the hope of progress is the ultimate fatuity, the last word in poverty of spirit and meanness of mind.
Science is the art of the solvable.
It can be said with complete confidence that any scientist of any age who wants to make important discoveries must study important problems. Dull or piffling problems yield dull or piffling answers. It is not enough that a problem should be "interesting".
I do not propose to criticize the fatuous argument I have just outlined;
here, to expound is to expose.
Scientists who think science consists of unprejudiced data-gathering without speculation are merely cows grazing on the pasture of knowledge.
I believe in intelligence, and I believe also that there are inherited differences in intellectual ability, but I do not believe that intelligence is a simple scalar endowment that can be quanitified by attaching a single figure to it—an I.Q. or the like.
A danger sign that fellow-obsessionals will at once recognize is the tendency to regard the happiest moments of your life as those that occur when someone who has an appointment to see you is prevented from coming.
French is not a language that lends itself naturally to the opaque and ponderous idiom of nature-philosophy, and Teilhard has according resorted to the use of that tipsy, euphoristic prose-poetry which is one of the more tiresome manifestations of the French spirit.
Simultaneous discovery is utterly commonplace, and it was only the rarity of scientists, not the inherent improbability of the phenomenon, that made it remarkable in the past. Scientists on the same road may be expected to arrive at the same destination, often not far apart.
It is high time that laymen abandoned the misleading belief that scientific enquiry is a cold dispassionate enterprise, bleached of imaginative qualities, and that a scientist is a man who turns the handle of discovery; for at every level of endeavour scientific research is a passionate undertaking and the Promotion of Natural Knowledge depends above all on a sortee into what can be imagined but is not yet known.
Ask a scientist what he conceives the scientific method to be and he will adopt an expression that is at once solemn and shifty-eyed: solemn, because he feels he ought to declare an opinion; shifty-eyed, because he is wondering how to conceal the fact that he has no opinion to declare.
In all sensation we pick and choose, interpret, seek and impose order, and devise and test hypotheses about what we witness. Sense data are taken, not merely given: we learn to perceive.... The teacher has forgotten, and the student himself will soon forget, that what he sees conveys no information until he knows beforehand the kind of thing he is expected to see.
There is much else in the literary idiom of nature-philosophy: nothing-buttery, for example, always part of the minor symptomatology of the bogus.
It is the great glory as well as the great threat of science that everything which is in principle possible can be done if the intention to do it is sufficiently resolute.
No scientist is admired for failing in the attempt to solve problems that lie beyond his competence. ... Good scientists study the most important problems they think they can solve. It is, after all, their professional business to solve problems, not merely to grapple with them.
It is not envy or malice, as so many people think, but utter despair that has persuaded many educational reformers to recommend the abolition of the English public schools.
In no sense other than an utterly trivial one is reproduction the inverse of chemical disintegration. It is a misunderstanding of genetics to suppose that reproduction is only 'intended' to make facsimiles, for parasexual processes of genetical exchange are to be found in the simplest living things.
It is a truism to say that a good experiment is precisely that which spares us the exertion of thinking: the better it is, the less we have to worry about its interpretation, about what it really means.
I regret my disbelief in God.
I reckon that for all the use it has been to science about four-fifths of my time has been wasted, and I believe this to be the common lot of people who are not merely playing follow-my-leader in research.
A scientist is no more a collector and classifier of facts than a historian is a man who complies and classifies a chronology of the dates of great battles and major discoveries.
If a person is A) poorly, B) receives treatment intended to make him better, and C) gets better, then no power of reasoning known to medical science can convince him that it may not have been the treatment that restored his health.