Only empirical evidence counts

Michael Stevens, a philosopher, writing at Aeon:

Indeed, I conjecture, modern science arose in the 17th century, in the course of the so-called Scientific Revolution, precisely because it stumbled upon the extraordinary motivating power of ‘only empirical evidence counts’ – a story I tell in my book The Knowledge Machine (2020). For thousands of years, philosophers thinking deeply about nature had valued empirical evidence highly, but they had valued many other avenues of thought in addition: philosophical thought, theological thought and aesthetic thought. Consequently, they were never forced, like Kuhn’s scientists, to throw themselves wholeheartedly into experimentation and observation alone. They watched the way the world worked, but they stopped measuring and started thinking too soon. They missed out on the little details that tell us so much. Only once thinkers’ intellectual horizons were closed off by unreasonable constraints on argument was modern science born.

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