Francis Bacon’s New Organon

It would be an unsound fancy and self-contradictory to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried.

This reminds me of that “definition of insanity” which is so often attributed to Einstein. But this comes from Francis Bacon, circa 1620. In his seminal work “The New Organon”.

Bacon has some other interesting quotes for testers…

The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions than to help the search after truth. So it does more harm than good.

This is how I feel about the ISTQB syllabus.

There is no soundness in our notions, whether logical or physical. Substance, Quality, Action, Passion, Essence itself, are not sound notions; much less are Heavy, Light, Dense, Rare, Moist, Dry, Generation, Corruption, Attraction, Repulsion, Element, Matter, Form, and the like; but all are fantastical and ill defined.

This is how I feel about a lot of testing terminology.

It is idle to expect any great advancement in science from the superinducing and engrafting of new things upon old. We must begin anew from the very foundations, unless we would revolve forever in a circle with mean and contemptible progress.

I feel that way, too, about patterns such as the v-model, and most of what passed for test techniques in the 80’s.

Francis Bacon was proposing a great break with the stifling Aristotelianism of his day (the certification craze of the middle ages), and sought a new foundation for science. Bacon thereafter became a godfather of the enlightenment, helping to create the modern world.

We’re way beyond Bacon, now. Still, I’m attracted to his sentiment that what passed for good scientific work in his time was actually nothing but uncritical folklore. In our time, in our little field, we need a similar re-invention of the craft, a New Organon of testing.