The Dignity of the Natural Sciences

  • Pietro Omodeo


In this paper the author denounces the criticism, often very harsh, levelled against the natural sciences (biology included) which are deemed to be soft science, while physics and mathematics are judged as hard science since they produce predictable outcomes.

Such criticism has emerged from the scientific epistemology expressed by Bertrand Russel and K. Popper. Russel limited himself to declaring the superiority of physics methodology which was optimally to be adopted by all scientists. He also foresaw, however, the dangers that biology would present as a prediction science and warned against any biological programmes aimed at improving the human race. Popper, instead, implicitly stated that only physics was entitled to be considered a proper science and declared that most biological principles and theories were merely erroneous conjectures.

In any case, it may be convened that the peculiar nature of naturalistic epistemology is a result of the peculiar nature of its subject matter, as was implicit in the bygone distinction between ex act and natural sciences. With reference to biology in particular, it is the universal kinship of all living beings that allows even the most advanced theories to be set forth through generalization while at the same time refusing the universal validity of any principle (those descending from logical necessity excepted). Instead, provisional principles remain indefinitely open to modifications, improvement and even rejection.

For precisely this reason any programme for human biological amelioration through selection or genetic manipulation is bound to lead to diseaster, as predicted by B. Russel and illustrated by Aldous Huxley in The brave new world.


Natural Science Living Organism Peculiar Nature Soft Science Scientific Epistemology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pietro Omodeo
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia EvolutivaUniversità di SienaItaly

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