There are indeed two attitudes that might be adopted towards the unknown. One is to accept the pronouncements of people who say they know, on the basis of books, mysteries or other sources of inspiration. The other way is to go out and look for oneself, and this is the way of science and philosophy.
Today, the fruits of scientific progress surround us to such a degree that we take science and its applications for granted. It may even be difficult to imagine that there was a time when we did not have science. The aim of this chapter is to give a brief account of how the scientific approach came about, as this gives a slightly different perspective on scientific thinking than the previous chapter did. Exploring things from different perspectives makes it easier to understand their essential characteristics. Many of the ideas described will seem odd to our modern eyes and some even irrelevant to modern science. We should remember, though, that they are still important elements in a remarkable change in thinking that has profoundly transformed our lives.
We tend to take science for granted but it is striking how many of the central developments in its history depend on pure coincidences. It takes more than a brilliant mind for a brilliant idea to become successful. That mind has to work under favorable conditions in the right type of society, and it must interact with the right other minds in order to have an impact. To me, it seems like we ...