Hugh Farey tells it the way it is – science is not about the absolute truth (whatever that is) …

Here’s a comment that Hugh left recently on The Other Site, one whose sentiments I fully endorse.

“I don’t know where you got the idea that Science was the pursuit of truth. Only non-Scientists think that! Science is the gradual refinement of models that describe or explain observed phenomena – methodologically natural if you like – and it does a pretty good job of it. For truth however, you have to go to Philosophy or Theology.”

December 29, 2012 at 1:37 pm | #131

I’ve written enough words today-  so am feeling  somewhat word- weary…  Nope, not world weary, just word weary.  So here are two pictures instead. The first is a Venn diagram, presenting a flat two-dimensional view of what I consider “good science” where speculation interfaces (nay, overlaps) with experimentation.

Venn diagram for good science cropped

I’ve gone a bit wild with the second, converting that Venn diagram to a more joyous 3D view (what I call “Happy Valley”).


I try to spend as much time in ‘Happy Valley” as possible – with occasional excursions into neighbouring  highlands on both sides. They are  colour- coded blue and yellow as before. I try not to stay too long in either – especially that  hill on the left under its dense tree cover which – once penetrated – can blot out so much of the surrounding scenery (to say nothing of landmarks) with the risk of losing one’s way.

Sadly, I’ve met quite a few lost souls on my wanderings  – especially in that forested hill on the left. Some have become backwoodsmen there – taking up permanent residence. One listens politely to what they have to say,  which, with rare exceptions,  changes little from month to month, year to year. One then  finds an excuse to take one’s leave, returning  ASAP to the ‘real world’ –  Happy Valley, nestling comfortably* between Speculation and Experimentation.

* and occasionally uncomfortably too. (You see, even in Happy Valley, there’s a Disneyesque fairy tale castle from which others look down on one’s honest toil …)



About Colin Berry

Retired science bod, previous research interests: phototherapy of neonatal jaundice, membrane influences on microsomal UDP-glucuronyltransferase, defective bilirubin and xenobiotic conjugation and hepatic excretion, dietary fibre and resistant starch.
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