Asimov, Isaac. The New Intelligent Man's Guide to Science. New York: Basic Books, 1965.

 

Asimov, Isaac. The New Intelligent Man's Guide to Science. New York: Basic Books, 1965.
(Originally, 1960)

I picked this up hoping that Asimov would have something on error, on fudge, fraud and
cheating. There is almost nothing. Yet, the author is aware of fudge and fraud. For example,
regarding Galileo's dropping weights off the Leaning Tower, he puts it, "Actually Galileo
probably did not perform this particular experiment, but the story is so typical of his dramatic
methods that it is no wonder it has been widely believed through the centuries." (p. 13)

Asimov continues: "Galileo undeniably did roll balls down inclined planes and measured the
distance that they traveled in given times. He was the first to conduct time experiments, the first
to use measurement in a systematic way." (p. 13). But Asimov provides no evidence that Galileo
did the experiments and mentions nothing of the extraordinary difficulties involved in such
measurements during Galileo's lifetime.

I checked to see if Asimov had anything to say about Mendel's fudge which, of course, was well
known by the time he had written this book. Far from taking Fisher's comments seriously, he
suggests that Fisher put Mendel on a modern scientific basis. "It was not until 1930, indeed,that
the English statistician and geneticist Ronald Aylmer Fisher succeeded in showing that
Mendelian genetics provided the necessary mechanism for evolution by natural selection. Only
then did evolutionary theory gain its modern guise." (p. 707)

It seems safe to say that in this popularization of science the author is not interested in specifying
the complexities of the scientific mind. Like Conant, he is aware of scientific dishonesty but
draws nothing from it.