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The role of ignorance in science

Most of us have a false impression of science as a surefire, deliberate, step-by-step method for finding things out and getting things done. In fact, more often than not, science is like looking for a black cat in a dark room, and there may not be a cat in the room.

We sat down with author Stuart Firestein to discuss the relationship between science and ignorance, the importance of asking the right questions, and which scientists are to be admired for throwing everything that was known out the window to come up with some of the unifying theories of life itself.

Stuart Firestein on the reliability of facts

Stuart Firestein on predicting the future of science

Stuart Firestein’s Favorite Scientists

Stuart Firestein is the author of Ignorance: How It Drives Science. A Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, his highly popular course on ignorance invites working scientists to come talk to students each week about what they don’t know. Dedicated to promoting science to a public audience, he serves as an advisor for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s program for the Public Understanding of Science and was awarded the 2011 Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award for excellence in scholarship and teaching. Also, he was recently named an AAAS Fellow.

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