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"Reason may be employed in two ways to establish a point: first for the purpose of furnishing sufficient proof of some principle, as in natural science, where sufficient proof can be brought to show that the movement of the heavens is always of uniform velocity. Reason is employed in another way, not as furnishing a sufficient proof of a principle, but as confirming an already established principle, by showing the congruity of its results, as in astrology the theory of eccentrics and epicycles is considered as established because thereby the sensible appearances of the heavenly movements can be explained; not, however, as if this reason were sufficient, since some other theory might explain them."



"But at the same time, there must never be the least hesitation in giving up a position the moment it is shown to be untenable. It is not going too far to say that the greatness of a scientific investigator does not rest on the fact of his having never made a mistake, but rather on his readiness to admit that he has done so, whenever the contrary evidence is cogent enough."


Role of Hypothesis

"The role of hypothesis in research can be discussed more effectively if we consider first some examples of discoveries which originated from hypotheses. One of the best illustrations of such a discovery is provided by the story of Christopher Columbus’ voyage; it has many of the features of a classic discovery in science. (a) He was obsessed with an idea—that since the world is round he could reach the Orient by sailing West, (b) the idea was by no means original, but evidently he had obtained some additional evidence from a sailor blown off his course who claimed to have reached land in the west and returned, (c) he met great difficulties in getting someone to provide the money to enable him to test his idea as well as in the actual carrying out of the experimental voyage, (d) when finally he succeeded he did not find the expected new route, but instead found a whole new world, (e) despite all evidence to the contrary he clung to the bitter end to his hypothesis and believed that he had found the route to the Orient, (f) he got little credit or reward during his lifetime and neither he nor others realized the full implications of his discovery, (g) since his time evidence has been brought forward showing that he was by no means the first European to reach America."


Slow Progress

"History shows that the human animal has always learned but progress used to be very slow. This was because learning often depended on the chance coming together of a potentially informative event on the one hand and a perceptive observer on the other. Scientific method accelerated that process."


Striking Project Findings

"What I find striking about these projects is that they show:
Almost any methodology can be made to work on some project.
Any methodology can manage to fail on some project.
Heavy processes can be successful.
Light processes are more often successful, and more importantly, the people on those projects credit the success to the lightness of the methodology."


Testing Bug Presence

"Testing shows the presence, not the absence of bugs."


Learning is Promise

"In book subjects a student can only do a student's work. All that can be measured is how well he learns, rather than how well he performs. All he can show is promise."


Assembly Line Flexibility

“Ford had developed his assembly line to make a single product. Knudsen would show him how it could be used to make any product, anywhere.”

  • Source:
    • Arthur L. Herman in the book “Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II”. Written by Arthur Herman. Published in 2012 by Random House, New York, NY. ISBN: 9780679604631 (ebook). Page 21.



“We have a lot of customers, and we have a lot of research into our installed base. We also watch industry trends pretty carefully. But in the end, for something this complicated, it's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why a lot of people at Apple get paid a lot of money, because they're supposed to be on top of these things.”


How You Do It

“It isn't what you do but how you do it that shows whether you are clever or not.”

  • Source: Chapter XVII. Pavese (1949/1950). A book. Entitled The Moon and the Bonfires. Written by Cesare Pavese. Published during 1950. Published by New York Review. Translated from Italian to English. Translated by R.W. Flint. ISBN 1590170210. Translated using a book.


Balance Efficiency and Generality

“Our progress, then, is measured by the balance we achieve between efficiency and generality. As the nature of our involvement with computation changes--and it does--the appropriate description of language changes; our emphasis shifts. I feel that our successor model will show such a change. Computer science is a restless infant and its progress depends as much on shifts in point of view as on the orderly development of our current concepts.”


Neurons to Consciousness

"None of us has a brain that can actually put us in touch with reality unaided with truth. I've just shown you a bunch of gadgetry that responds to things that are essential to our survival, things that prevent us from falling off cliffs and bumping into trees. But they don't actually correspond to any clear description of the world as it is. So we have, for example, circuitry that responds to the edges rather than the physical distribution of light, because edges are important, that's where objects leave off and their backgrounds begin. Moreover, they can be fooled, as I did with each one of you. That since our neural circuitry does consist of a mechanism, not a pipeline to the truth or a window onto objective reality. That is naïve realism we know is false because there are illusions. You can't just trust your senses. That means we need some way of augmenting the faculties that nature gave us to make our beliefs as accurate as possible. Which of course is why the early modern philosophers made such a big deal of visual illusions. They said you can't just open your eyes and see the world as it is. Look at all these illusions. So what we do, what gives some of us confidence that our beliefs are objectively true is that they are part of an institutional infrastructure of testing and criticism and logic and determining which hypotheses withstand criticism and attempts at refutation. Devising exotic arrangements of reality to reflect the way reality is put together, namely experiments. Thanks to this huge network of minds, each one of them making up for deficits of all the others, we like to think that we have a collective grasp on truth that none of us individually can have. But of course, it's always fallible. The religious beliefs I think were actually pretty reasonable hypotheses in earlier states of our collective knowledge. Even Richard Dawkins said that before Darwin he probably would have been a creationist because the cosmic engineer was the only available explanation for the obvious adaptive complexity of living things. I would add that prior to the advent of modern neuroscience I probably would have believed in souls because there was no better explanation for phenomena such as that people respond intelligently to their environments. When you dream some part of you is up and about the world while your body is in bed the whole time. That seems like there must be some part of you that can leave your body. When a person suddenly dies some kind of animating force no longer seems to be animating the body that was there just a few minutes ago. So the soul hypothesis is not a stupid or irrational belief, nor is creationism if it's the best that you have. Now, of course, we can do better. But doing better in part depends not just on this cumulative weight of evidence and argument. But because few of us can actually reconstruct the scientific observations that justify the theory of natural selection or the theory of neural networks, all of us, at least a little bit, take it on faith in the following sense; that there is a community that you trust enough because when they have been challenged to defend their beliefs they can connect them to reality. They have shown that it isn't magic. That they have given reason to trust them because they've convinced you that they're the mores of their culture, of their scientific culture, designed so that they will find true things and weed out false things. If you don't have a degree of solidarity or trust, if you think that scientists are all in cahoots with big corporations or are trying to tear down all faith and values and meaning and you simply refuse to follow through the very long chain of deduction that connects the claims to the experiments, then you'll naturally reject it just because it's not your tribe. For you and me scientists are our tribe and we're apt to give them some credibility, indeed some credulousness, knowing that if ever challenged it would be repaid. But unless you trace that through it can be all too easy to reject the conclusions of science, and indeed a number of studies have shown that contrary to the common belief that people believe in falsehoods, such as that vaccines cause autism or that humans were created five thousand years ago or that the burning of fossil fuels has no effect on global temperatures, it turns out that people with those beliefs that we have every reason to believe are false are no more scientifically naïve on average than people that have beliefs that are scientifically justified. You give a test on evolution to a bunch of people who believe in evolution, give it to a bunch of creationists, there's not much difference in how well they score. In fact, often they are equal. Likewise, the typical grasp of climate science among someone who signs on to the scientific consensus is not much better than the adamant deniers. That kind of dashes the hope that simply by increasing the quality of science education you will lead people to more accurate beliefs. There, in addition, has to be a dissociation of who you think are the good guys and who are the bad guys from who has the best claims to truth. That's what it depends on."


Kettle Boiling

“It is not a question of choosing one and thereby rejecting the other; both are necessary in order to do justice to the totality... This is perhaps simply shown by Dr Douglas Spanner's example of the boiling kettle. Why, I may ask, is the kettle boiling? There are two kinds of answer that can be given. One is, it is boiling because energy is being supplied to it in the form of heat and the maximum vapour pressure of the water is now equal to the atmospheric pressure. The other kind of answer which may be given is that the kettle is boiling because I put it on to make a cup of tea. Now these are different answers, the first in terms of immediate causes and the second in terms of ultimate cause. But both are true, both are complementary and not competitive. One answer is appropriate within a particular frame of reference, the other within another frame of reference. There is a sense in which each is incomplete without the other.”

  • Source: Frank H. T. Rhodes in the essay “Christianity in a Mechanistic Universe”, included in the book “Christianity in a Mechanistic Universe and Other Essays” edited by Donald M. MacKay, published by Inter-Varsity Press, Chicago, Illinois, in 1965.


Good and Evil

“Experience day by day protested and showed by infinite examples, that good and evil fortunes fall to the lot of pious and impious alike; still they would not abandon their inveterate prejudice, for it was more easy for them to class such contradictions among other unknown things of whose use they were ignorant, and thus to retain their actual and innate condition of ignorance, than to destroy the whole fabric of their reasoning and start afresh. They therefore laid down as an axiom, that God's judgments far transcend human understanding. Such a doctrine might well have sufficed to conceal the truth from the human race for all eternity, if mathematics had not furnished another standard of verity in considering solely the essence and properties of figures without regard to their final causes.”

  • Source: A book. Entitled Ethics. Also entitled Ethica. Written by Baruch Spinoza. Originally published 1677. Translated from Latin by R. H. M. Elwes. Part I, Appendix.