Serendipity as a minor facet of human science

Essay by KeirCollege, Undergraduate November 2004

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Although serendipity may play an important role in some important discoveries in the history of human science, it should not be considered a major part of human science since the word 'science' itself already prevents the idea of serendipity from taking place. 'Science', by definition, is 'the organized knowledge, especially when obtained by observation and testing of facts, about the physical world, natural laws and society'. Human science, therefore, is the organized knowledge of human beings. To be organized is to be ordered and arranged, which is like routine work and certainly prevents serendipity from occurring too often.

The difference between experimental science and human science is that in experimental science much can be predicted whereas the latter cannot be predicted since every person varies (certainly chemical compounds do not have emotions that are hard to be forecasted). However, that does not mean serendipity is impossible in experimental science. The discovery of Penicillin, for instance, is an example of an unexpected result. This discovery, although highly acclaimed afterwards cannot, I think, be praised by means of experimental aspects because Fleming actually found it by improperly carrying out his experiment. He was lucky that he found something useful by conducting the wrong operation. Serendipity in this case is, therefore, against scientific rules and not organized or ordered. Most scientific discoveries were certainly not discovered this way, but through complicated analysis and deduction.

As for human science, I do not think serendipity is a major facet of it simply because of the definition of the word 'science' I mentioned above. Human beings have emotions and thoughts that make it hard for scientists to predict absolutely our actions or behaviour in certain ways. However there are patterns that we can use for predictions. For example, kids are usually afraid of tigers...