杰出的错误

巴尔的摩—据说托马斯·爱迪生曾说:“我从没有失败过。我只是发现了10,000种不对的办法。”这句话总结了一条科学研究的基本真理——但这条真理经常被错误地理解。科学——以及其他所有创造性学科——的进步并不是通往答案的笔直大道,而是一条曲折坎坷的道路,其中包括了各种错误的起点和歧路。错误不但是不可避免的;也是创新性思想的必要条件,因为它们为其他探索者指明了方向。

你也许会感到好奇,当今高度竞争、争抢资金、以发表数量和引用数量作为成功的首要标准的科学界能否容忍这些错误。简单的回答是肯定的。事实上,这些错误和过去一样重要——并且不仅仅是学术界才是如此。

事实上,整一套科学方法都建立在发现什么不管用是寻找什么管用的关键这一概念的基础上。任何科学理论都必须是可证伪的,即建立在已有的观察或实验结果的基础上。对于被认为是科学的理论,必须能够产生关于未来观察或实验结果的具体预测。如果这些观察或结果与预测相矛盾,理论就被推翻,或至少需要作出修改。

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