[Ads-l] Quotation: The philosophy of science is just about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 10 15:13:18 UTC 2023

The statement in the subject line is usually attributed to famous
physicist Richard Feynman, but I have been unable to find substantive
support for that attribution.

The earliest close match appeared in the journal “Nature” in 1987
which printed a speech delivered by theoretical physicist Steven
Weinberg containing the following line:

[Begin excerpt]
I’ve heard the remark (although I forget the source) that the
philosophy of science is just about as useful to scientists as
ornithology is to birds.
[End excerpt]

Interestingly, the remark is a member of a family of related sayings
that began with an analogy credited to prominent U.S. painter Barnett
Newman in the journal “Art in America” in 1955:

[Begin excerpt]
. . . aesthetics is for the artist like Ornithology is for the birds . . .
[End excerpt]

I have posted two articles about these sayings.

Quote Origin: The Philosophy of Science Is As Useful To Scientists As
Ornithology Is To Birds
Full: https://quoteinvestigator.medium.com/8944cf9eef10
Abbreviated: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2023/04/09/science-birds/

Quote Origin: Aesthetics Is for the Artists Like Ornithology Is for the Birds
Full: https://quoteinvestigator.medium.com/b357f391513d
Abbreviated: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2023/04/07/ornithology/

New citations or information would be welcome.

This exploration was initiated after I received an email from Italian
physicist and science journalist Peppe Liberti who published an
article on this topic in "Il Tascabile". He located several important
citations and traced the family of sayings back to Barnett Newman and
the Woodstock Art Conference.

Here is a link to Peppe Liberti’s article in Italian.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list