Contingency and Natural Order in Early Modern Science
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Contingency is intrinsic to scientific practice. Whether observing the behaviour of a photon, diagnosing a patient, or calculating the orbit of a distant planet, scientists face the unavoidable challenge of dealing with data that differ from their models and expectations. However, epistemological categories are not fixed in time. Indeed, there is something fundamentally different in the way an Aristotelian natural philosopher defined a wonder or a "monstrous" birth as "contingent", a modern scientist defines the unexpected result of an experiment, and a quantum physicist the behavior of a photon. Although to each inquirer these instances appeared self-evidently contingent, each also employs the concept differently.