As soon as the circumstances of an experiment are well known, we stop gathering statistics. ... The effect will occur always without exception, because the cause of the phenomena is accurately defined. Only when a phenomenon includes conditions as yet undefined,Only when a phenomenon includes conditions as yet undefined, can we compile statistics. ... we must learn therefore that we compile statistics only when we cannot possibly help it; for in my opinion, statistics can never yield scientific truth.
Progress is achieved by exchanging our theories for new ones which go further than the old, until we find one based on a larger number of facts. ... Theories are only hypotheses, verified by more or less numerous facts. Those verified by the most facts are the best, but even then they are never final, never to be absolutely believed.
In these researches I followed the principles of the experimental method that we have established, i.e., that, in presence of a well-noted, new fact which contradicts a theory, instead of keeping the theory and abandoning the fact, I should keep and study the fact, and I hastened to give up the theory.
Men who have excessive faith in their theories or ideas are not only ill prepared for making discoveries; they also make very poor observations. Of necessity, they observe with a preconceived idea, and when they devise an experiment, they can see, in its results,only a confirmation of their theory. In this way they distort observation and often neglect very important facts because they do not further their aim.
When a physician is called to a patient, he should decide on the diagnosis, then the prognosis, and then the treatment. ... Physicians must know the evolution of the disease, its duration and gravity in order to predict its course and outcome. Here statistics intervene to guide physicians, by teaching them the proportion of mortal cases, and if observation has also shown that the successful and unsuccessful cases can be recognized by certain signs, then the prognosis is more certain.
We must remain, in a word, in an intellectual disposition which seems paradoxical, but which, in my opinion, represents the true mind of the investigator. We must have a robust faith and yet not believe.