out of nothing and by nothing.nAssessing the new theory, however,nrequires not only careful study of itsnspecific features, but a correct understandingnof the nature of science itselfnOne of the most popular misconceptionsnof science is the notion thatnscientific theories are based entirely onnobservable fact. This empiricist fallacynis traceable all the way back to FrancisnBacon, the first of a long line ofnpublicists who have championed sciencenwithout understanding how itnwas done. At times scientists themselvesnfall into the empiricist errornwhen explaining their work. Both thenempiricist error and its implicit refutationnare found in Christine Sutton’snhistory of the recent discovery in Germanynof the constituents of a new formnof light.nSutton, another British physicist,nargues that unlike the philosophers ofnancient Greece, who relied on theirnminds and their imaginations for explanationsnof nature, modern physicistsnhave “an altogether different attitude.”n”Experiment,” she writes, “isnthe exploratory tool. … In each andnevery case experimental data havenprovided the scaffold upon which thenedifice of theory is built.” It is hard tontake Sutton’s empiricist assertions seriously,nhowever, since much of hernown book describes experiments designednto test theoretical conjecturesnborn of nothing but an intellectualncraving for simplicity and order.nThe denouement of The ParticlenConnection — the discovery of then”W” and “Z” particles—was in factnpredicted by those who believed, anpriori, that electromagnetism and nuclearnweak forces share a unitary root.nFor all of the advances in technologynand mathematics, today’s leading scientistsnstill resonate to the themes ofnThales and Pythagoras.nDespite the promise of its subtide,nmost readers will find litde exciting innSutton’s tediously detailed but philosophicallynnaive work. (Fortunately,nDavies discusses all the major experimentsnSutton describes, but with farngreater clarity and insight. WhynSimon and Schuster published bothnbooks simultaneously is a mysteryn—unless they have feminist acquisitionneditors.) For all of her technicalnexpertise, Sutton is quite mistaken innher notion that the best theories innphysics are “rooted in general principlesnforced upon us by the way thatnnature really is.” The truth is thatnphysicists are not “forced” to theirntheories by any array of natural factsnbut are guided by a legacy of nonempiricalnphilosophical choices.nAn Azande witchdoctor, no lessnthan a particle physicist, has his ownnset of general principles for explainingn”the way nature really is,” and it isnunlikely that Sutton could show himnany experiment or calculation thatnwould dissuade him from his views.nAn Azande could interpret everyncloud-chamber image, every radioactivenglow, by invoking his own mythologynof spirits and demons.nOccultist explanations might wellncontain a germ of truth, but they arennot science: they provide no basis fornquantifying present observations nornfor predicting future phenomena. Sciencennot only makes such predictionsnbut seeks to do so on the basis ofnprinciples consonant with the establishedntheories used with other typesnof phenomena. The current attemptnto bring the entire universe and allnof its apparently disparate forcesn— subatomic and macroscopic—nwithin one unifying mathematical paradigmnbrings us to the very acme ofnWestern science.nBecause of the cultural prestige accordednscientists since the ScientificnRevolution of the 17th century, andnbecause relatively few people reallynunderstand the mathematical principlesnand unitary rigor informing science,n”scientific” has acquired mesmerizingnpower in popular culture. Anfew schematic diagrams, a little chemicalnanalysis, or some conjecturesnabout the nature of the solar system isnall that it takes to convince the averagenaudience that they are in the realm ofnscience.nOnly because of such widespreadnconfusion about the nature of sciencenwas Immanuel Velikovsky able to provoken30 years of controversy with hisnidiosyncratic speculations about thenhistory of the planets. After making ancomparative study of catastrophes relatednin various ancient traditions, includingnthe Old Testament, Velikovskynproposed in 1950 that the earth hadntwice experienced a close encounternwith a comet that eventually becamenthe planet Venus. Based on this sce­nnnnario, Velikovsky made several conjectures,nsome of which (e.g., that Venusnis hot) turned out to be correct. However,nas Henry Bauer demonstrates,nVelikovsky’s work cannot be properlynconsidered science because even hisnaccurate “advance claims” were onlyn”lonely facts.” Nothing was integratedninto any larger framework, nor was anynaccount made of established paradigms.n”Since we have [in Velikovsky]nno satisfactory theory to account fornthe existence of the solar system asna whole,” writes Bauer, “we arennot much bothered by any data concerningnphysical conditions on thenplanets.”nVelikovsky indeed took severalnevents (e.g., the plagues in Egypt, thenhalting of the sun by Joshua) out of anmeaningful but nonscientific contextnand reduced them to mere props for annad hoc assemblage of propositions. Butneven a true scientist must truncate thenreligious and imaginative significancenof Old Testament or ancient Mayannstories when treating them scientifically.n(Though “scientific creationists”nusually forget this.) For, as Bauernnotes, scientific truth is “a limited kindnof truth” which is “useful in concretenways [but] not a viable basis for humannactivity as a whole.”nPrimitives are not the only onesnhard to persuade that scientific usefulnessnfor making predictions is the keynto reality. Oxford philosopher LeszeknKolakowski has argued that science isnutilitarian and “does not deal withnreality at all.” Sir Isaac Newton definedngravity not only with his famousnformula, but also with a littie-knownnmetaphor: God is the Piper, gravity thenmusic. Given Newton’s pair of quitendifferent definitions—the formula andnthe metaphor—we must decide:nWhich is more fundamental? Whichnis transparent and which opaque?nNewton’s metaphor—which he couplednwith the belief that angels superintendednthe planets—is clearly notnscientific, since it was not derivednmathematically and seems useless fornmaking falsifiable predictions. YetnNewton thought it more true than hisnmathematics.nMost scientists, however, do notntraffic in metaphors. Instead they sharenwith Davies the belief that all of naturenis “written in mathematical code.”nFew of them, however, admit withnMARCH 1986 /11n