January 05, 2007
The book of nature
"Galileo's famous metaphor of the "book of nature", which he used to defend the work of scientists from religious authorities, can be dangerous today."
Robert P Crease in PhysicsWeb:
In 1623 Galileo crafted a famous metaphor that is still often cited by scientists. Nature, he wrote, is a book written in "the language of mathematics". If we cannot understand that language, we will be doomed to wander about as if "in a dark labyrinth".
Like other metaphors, this one has two facets; it is insightful, but it may be misleading if taken literally. It captures our sense that nature's truths are somehow imposed on us – that they are already imprinted in the world – and underlines the key role played by mathematics in expressing those truths.
But Galileo devised the metaphor for a specific purpose. Taken out of its historical context and placed in ours, the image can be dangerously deceptive.
Posted by S. Abbas Raza at 06:31 PM | Permalink