Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How Ignorance Drives Science #3

Some blog followers might be interested in a recent post “How Ignorance Drives Science #3” [Hake (2013)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: I recently became aware of Stuart Firestein’s (2012) Ignorance: How It Drives Science at - the introduction is online at

Here Firestein means by “ignorance” (in his own words) “a particular condition of knowledge: the absence of fact, understanding, insight, or clarity about something. . . . . . This is knowledgeable ignorance, perceptive ignorance, insightful ignorance.” To most scientists Firestein's “ignorance” is simply “stupidity” - see e.g., the signature quotes.

My own three decades worth of experience as a solid-state physicist is consistent with Firestein’s thesis that “ignorance” (as defined above and called by scientists “stupidity”) drives science - see e.g., “Early History of High Field Superconductivity: 1930-1967 - A Tragicomedy in Twelve Acts” [Hake (2011)] at (8.8 MB), especially the Epilogue on page 28, wherein I give quotes supporting Firestein’s thesis by scientists Berlincourt, Brush, Dyson, and Pippard.

In this post I also give links to further evidence in support of Firestein's thesis:

A. Three abstracts of discussion-list posts:
a. “Re: Should the History of Science Be Rated X?” [Hake (2012a)] at;
b. “Should the History of Science Be Rated X? ADDENDA” [Hake (2012b)] at; and
c. “Can Education Research Be 'Scientific'? What's 'Scientific'? ” [Hake (2012c)]at

B. Two books:
a. Real Science: What it is, and what it means [Ziman (2000)] at, especially Ziman's statement on p. 183 “most scientists would say that their research is directed into specific AREAS OF IGNORANCE” - My CAPS.
b. Out of the Crystal Maze: Chapters from The History of Solid State Physics [Hoddeson et al. (1992)] at


To access the complete 17 kB post please click on .

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Links to Articles:
Links to Socratic Dialogue Inducing (SDI) Labs:
Google Scholar:

“The pace of fundamental advance in physics is set by human STUPIDITY. The pace is, and always has been, very slow.”
- Freeman Dyson (1958), my CAPS

“If we wish to boast of our achievements, let us not point to the unerring pursuit of truth by a logically faultless thinking machine, but to the astonishing way in which truth can be caused to emerge from the toils of error and STUPIDITY.”
- A.B. Pippard (1977), my CAPS

REFERENCES [URL shortened by and accessed on 19 July 2013.]
Hake, R.R. 2013. “How Ignorance Drives Science #2” online on the OPEN! Net-Gold archives at Post of 19 Jul 2013 16:06:12-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being distributed to various discussion lists.

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