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QotD: Harari on Modern Science

...modern science differs from all previous traditions of knowledge in three critical ways:

a. The willingness to admit ignorance.  Modern science is based on the Latin injunctioin ignoramus - 'we do not know'.  It assumes that we don't know everything.  Even more critically, it accepts that the things we think we know could be proven wrong as we gain more knowledge.  No concept, idea or theory is sacred and beyond challenge.

b. The centrality of observation and mathematics.  Having admitted ignorance, modern science aims to obtain new knowledge.  It does so by gathering observations and then using mathematical tools to connect these observations into comprehensive theories.

c. The acquisition of new powers.  Modern science is not content with creating theories.  It uses these theories in order to acquire new powers, and in particular to develop new technologies.

The Scientific Revolution has not been a revolution of knowledge.  It has been above all a revolution of ignorance.  The great discovery that launched the Scientific Revolution was the discovery that humans do not know the answers to their most important questions.

(He goes on to discuss how the premodern religious traditions of the world all assert that we already knew everything that we needed to know, and tamped down inquiries.)

-p250-251 in Sapiens

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