Notable and Quotable

There are two sayings that astronomer Aileen O’Donoghue repeats to her students: “Science is the current best guess” and “You can’t do science in your basement.” By the first remark, she means that we can never be certain about scientific theories (which is not to say that theories are not to be taken seriously or that the theory of evolution, say, or Newton’s law of gravity can be discarded). Her second point is that though you can do experiments in a basement, findings must be brought into the light of day and subjected to the scrutiny of the scientific community. The testing of some findings can take a long time–it took 300 years for an error in Newton’s Principia.

–Aileen O’Donoghue as cited in the Christian Century, March 11, 2008, edition, page 9, in reference to her new book The Sky Is Not a Ceiling: An Astronomer’s Faith


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

2 comments on “Notable and Quotable

  1. robroy says:

    I saw the business about finding an error in Newton’s Principia first in a discussion at D.C. Toedt’s interesting blogsite. I pointed out that Stokes of the Navier-Stoke equation fame had pointed out errors 150 years ago in Newton’s discussion of hydrodyamics. I had actually read the part of the Principia that contained the new error while in highschool, but I did not pick up on the error, myself. (I was very nerdy and was interested in celestial mechanics.)

  2. D. C. Toedt says:

    Theology was once called the queen of the sciences. Quaere why we shouldn’t likewise regard theology as our current best guess about God and his will. Our theology should always be subject to revision as new evidence and insights are revealed to us, provided of course that we test those insights so that we can keep what is good (cf. Rom. 1.20; 1 Thess. 5.19-21).