Friday, August 7, 2009

Duly quoted

Here is a nice quote about how to read research papers.

In studying a philosopher [or a biologist], the right attitude is neither reverence nor contempt, but first a kind of hypothetical sympathy, until it is possible to know what it feels like to believe in his theories, and only then a revival of the critical attitude, which should resemble, as far as possible, the state of mind of a person abandoning opinions which he has hitherto held. Contempt interferes with the first part of this process, and reverence with the second. Two things are to be remembered: that a man whose opinions and theories are worth studying may be presumed to have had some intelligence, but that no man is likely to have arrived at complete and final truth on any subject whatever.

Bertrand Russell, 1954

as quoted in:
Explorations in Developmental Biology
Fulton & Klein
Harvard Univ. Press 1976