The Revenge of the Soft Scientists

I have nothing against the hard sciences, mathematics, physics or chemistry. Sadly, however, some philosophers take physics as the measure of what science is all about: you measure and count and weigh and perform experiments, which you can do over and over again. Biology hovers uncomfortably between the two worlds—the hard and the woolly. Hard biology tends to be molecular, physiological, experimental, while at the other extreme is woolly natural history— bug collecting and such like

Beverly Halstead
Dec 14, 1986

I have nothing against the hard sciences, mathematics, physics or chemistry. Sadly, however, some philosophers take physics as the measure of what science is all about: you measure and count and weigh and perform experiments, which you can do over and over again. Biology hovers uncomfortably between the two worlds—the hard and the woolly. Hard biology tends to be molecular, physiological, experimental, while at the other extreme is woolly natural history— bug collecting and such like—a nasty habit that Charles Darwin caught as a young man.

The real difference between the hard and woolly sciences is best illustrated when they come into direct conflict.

A now-classic example of this is associated with the Nobel laureate physicist Luis Alvarez. He was responsible to a great extent for getting across to both scientists and the general public the notion that the dinosaurs were wiped out as the consequence of an asteroid's splatting...

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