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December 9, 1992

The Scientific Attitude

Author Affiliations

Lutheran General Hospital Park Ridge, Ill

JAMA. 1992;268(22):3255-3256. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490220099042

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In eight short chapters Dr Grinnell considers the would-be scientist's development and philosophic tools and seeks to inform his audience about the scientific attitude. He details the maturation from interested undergraduate student to postdoctoral fellow, stressing the growth, transmission, and maintenance of a "thought-style." He then relates this style to the current and ongoing scientific collective. His major tenets are the permanently tentative nature of science ("error is the stuff of science") and the assumption of universal, intersubjective validity. The latter is based on a natural world in which there is an underlying order of consequential relationships among events, with universal laws describing these relationships. He includes advice on evaluating graduate programs and choosing a research adviser.

Grinnell writes clearly. He uses well-chosen metaphors and parallels with medicine, eg, "The meaning of objects such as cells includes their surroundings." The text is replete with cogent medical examples, many not well