Selected Readings

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Weaver 1948 Science and Complexity

SCIENCE has led to a multitude of results that affect men's lives. Some of these results are embodied in mere conveniences of a relatively trivial sort. Many of them, based on science and developed through technology, are essential to the machinery of modern life. Many other results, especially those associated with the biological and medical sciences, are of unquestioned benefit and comfort. Certain aspects of science have profoundly influenced men's ideas and even their ideals. Still other aspects of science are thoroughly awesome. How can we get a view of the function that science should have in the developing future of man? How can we appreciate what science really is and, equally important, what science is not? It is, of course, possible to discuss the nature of science in general philosophical terms. For some purposes such a discussion is important and necessary, but for the present a more direct approach is desirable.


Let us, as a very realistic politician used to say, let us look at the record. Neglecting the older history of science, we shall go back only three and a half centuries and take a broad view that tries to see the main features, and omits minor details. Let us begin with the physical sciences, rather than the biological, for the place of the life sciences in the descriptive scheme will gradually become evident.

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