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Science is the exploration of ignorance

Science is not the cataloguing of facts or the
accumulation of knowledge. It is the production of ignorance.
Scientists are in the business of finding new seams of

As Jennifer Doudna at U C Berkeley puts it in Erika Check
Hayden’s Nature article about the tenth anniversary of the
first draft of the human genome sequence

“The more we know, the more we realize
there is to know.”

In particular, the way that genes get regulated used to be a
simple nugget of knowledge:

`a regulator gene codes for a regulator
protein that controls transcription by binding to particular
site(s) on DNA’

Now it’s a gorgeous mess of ignorance involving small RNAs with
poorly understood regulatory roles.

That’s thrilling, because ignorance is the fun part of science.
Before we knew there were ice ages we did not ahve the fun of
trying to understand them; before we knew there were subatomic
particles, we did not enjoy the thrill of trying to get our minds
around them.

Will somebody please tell young people this? the way science
gets taught — as a catalogue of facts — puts them off becoming
explorers of ignorance.


By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  rational-optimist