Journal of Scient$c Exploration, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 141-155, 2007


Science: Past, Present, and ~uture'

Professor Emeritus of Chemistry & Science Studies Dean Emeritus of Arts & Sciences Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University e-mail:

Abstract-When someone says "science", we think "physics". The reasons for that are rooted in the history of science and in the historical development of philosophy of science. Science-as-physics has countless implications for the public image of science, the conventional wisdom about scientific method, the notion of "hard" versus "soft" sciences, and the belief that science means repeatability, predictability, falsifiability. But the age of physics is at an end, and the age of biology has begun. As biology becomes the most prominent among the sciences, the conception of what it means to be "scientific" will also change. Parapsychology will morph into a mainstream science. Keywords: science in the future-future of science-biology as epitome of science

Scientific knowledge and methods are very different now than a century or two or three ago; nevertheless, the science of our day remains shaped by the sciences of the past. Our understanding of the nature of science and its role in society has not kept up with the rapid changes within science itself. The conventional wisdom about science is still based on the first centuries of so-called "modern" science-approximately, the 17th century to the middle of the 20th century. The science of the future will differ from that of the past and present in at least two major respects: Science will be more a corporate enterprise than the sum of independent individual efforts; and the epitome of science will be biology instead of physics. These changes will affect in important ways how science is carried on. But the effect will be even more significant, on how society thinks about science and makes use of science. These are not predictions, or even...