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Editor's Note

Lab tests aren’t the answer for every science question

12:15pm, March 22, 2017

In the second half of the 17th century, the chemist and polymath Robert Boyle and philosopher Thomas Hobbes engaged in a divisive debate centered on a temperamental, mechanical contraption known as an air pump. In a series of famous experiments, Boyle used the air pump, which has been called “the cyclotron of its age,” to test basic scientific principles such as the relationship between a gas’s pressure and its volume. But the debate was about more than the scientific results; it was about the very nature of science. As Simon Schaffer and Steven Shapin recount in their 1985 history of the controversy: “Robert Boyle maintained that proper natural philosophical knowledge should be generated through experiment and that the foundations of such knowledge were to be constituted by experimentally produced matters of fact. Thomas

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