Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house. Connect with one area of knowledge This is a very striking quote because of its complexity and the truth behind it. There have been many sciences throughout the ages that have had a strong basis in facts or what people believed to be facts, but that simply are not true. Two great examples are the discovery of microbiology, bacteria, and the discovery of heliocentrism.
It was noted by an ancient Greek philosopher that the sun might be the center of the universe, but it was not until the 16th century that heliocentrism was actually factually proven. So in the mean time much of the world’s population was geocentric because of visual observation, and the incorrect facts of the time. So these people did have incorrect facts, but that seems to be what Henri Poincare is getting at.
Just because it is firmly rooted in factual evidence, until it can be accurately observed and recorded it is just a jumble of meaninglessness. Microbiology is another great example of this “broken house” phenomena. It was widely though during the Middle Ages that a person getting sick or dying from disease was punishment from god. The Black Death, a pandemic which reached Europe in the 14th century was thought to be god’s wrath coming down on human.
The total number of deaths worldwide is projected at 75 million people of which upwards of 30 million occurred within the boundaries of present day Europe.
It was thought the plague had killed up to 2/3 of the European population. Now looking back hindsight is always 20/20 and we know that a pandemic like that is caused by microbes that infiltrate the body and cause its organ systems to shut down, but a fact like that would have seemed ludicrous at the time.
You might have been thought of as very impetuous in those times if you where not praying for your family. Now it has occurred to many people Henri undoubtedly knew that if these facts are jumbled together the way they are in sciences, taking truths and some not so truthful truths and building a science around them then why it could not happen in other abstract forms of science such as history. It is very probable that history is a bigger culprit of the “broke house” syndrome then science is.
That people can pick out facts to build a big picture, but leave out important ones so you can only see the focal point of the picture and not the background. An example that immediately comes to mind is the cherry picking of facts to start the war in Iraq. It is most certainly recent history where a think tank looked at thousands of pieces of evidence to fight or not fight Iraq and they only chose pieces of evidence or only chose the facts that represent their points of view. The war is not a primary cause but can certainly attribute to the fiscal crises that we face today.
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