Suggested Reading: The Common Sense of Science

Jacob Bronowski — The Common Sense of Science — Harvard University Press, 1978, 154 pp. ISBN 0-674-14651-4

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I already knew Bronowski by the television series The Ascent of Man (broadcasted in french in the late 70s or maybe the very early 80s by Radio-Québec, now TéléQuébec). Even as a child, I was impressed by the depth of discourse of the series. Universal thinker, in The Common Sense of Science, Bronowski tells us how he conceives science and its methods as a fundamental human activity, and why it plays such an important (if misunderstood) rôle in our society. The narration follows more or less the evolution of science since the Enlightenment to our time and how it is tied to the industrial revolution.

In order to act in a scientific manner, in order to act in a human manner at all, two things are necessary: fact and thought. Science does not consist only of finding the facts; nor is it enough only to think, however rationally. The processes of science are characteristic of human action in that they move by the union of empirical fact and rational thought, in a way which cannot be disentangled. There is in science, as in all our lives, a continuous to and fro of factual discovery, then of thought about the implications of what we have discovered, and so back to the facts for testing and discovery—a step by step of experiment and theory, left, right, left, right, for ever.

This is the message of science: our ideas must be realistic, flexible, unbigoted—they must be human, they must create their own authority. If any ideas have a claim to be called creative, because they have liberated that creative impulse, it is the ideas of science.

You’ll find a play list for The Ascent of Man here.

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