Dougherty authors book on the evolution of scientific theory

Dougherty2Dr. Edward Dougherty, a pioneer in the study of translational genomics via the use of engineering techniques, has authored his 18th book, The Evolution of Scientific Knowledge: From Certainty to Uncertainty, that focuses on the background and history of epistemology (the theory of knowledge) in science and engineering.

Dougherty is the Robert M. Kennedy ’26 Chair Professor and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University. He is the director of the Genomic Signal Processing Lab at Texas A&M and former director of the Computational Biology Division of the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

The book includes the history of scientific epistemology from ancient to modern science and the centrality of mathematics in the quantum mechanical thinking of Bohr, Heisenberg and Schrödinger, the founding fathers of quantum physics.

“This background and history is fundamental to appreciating the twofold problem the book ultimately addresses,” said Dougherty in a SPIE Press blog. “Our inability to scientifically frame many important issues regarding nature and the impact of uncertainty on the translation of scientific knowledge into means to alter the course of nature — that is, the effect of uncertainty in engineering.”

His interest in epistemology began in the early days of genomics with the classification of cancer via genomic markers and the building of gene regulatory networks. A workshop in Germany focusing on validation of complex systems triggered him to write the book on the flight back.

“There was interest among scientists and engineers in the challenge of complexity, but I repeatedly heard that their education had ignored epistemology,” said Dougherty in the blog. “I realized just how universal epistemology was across science, engineering and social science.”