I like these two quotes by Liebenberg that Scout cites in his Tracking Trumps Science post.
Speculative Tracking involves the creation of a working hypothesis on the basis of initial interpretation of signs, a knowledge of animal behavior and a knowledge of the terrain. Having built a hypothetical reconstruction of the animal’s activities in their mind, the trackers then look for signs where they expect to find them.
In contrast to simple and systematic tracking (following clear prints, such as in sand or snow), speculative tracking is based on hypothetico-deductive reasoning, and involves a fundamentally new way of thinking.
I would argue that the differences between the art of tracking and modern science are mainly technological and sociological. Fundamentally they involve the same reasoning processes and require the same intellectual abilities. The modern scientist may know much more than the tracker, but he/she does not necessarily understand nature any better than the intelligent hunter-gatherer. What the expert tracker lacks in quantity of knowledge (compared to modern scientists), he/she may well make up for in subtlety and refinement. The intelligent hunter-gatherer may be just as rational in his/her understanding of nature as the intelligent modern scientist. Conversely, the intelligent modern scientist may be just as irrational as the intelligent Hunter-gatherer. One of the paradoxes of progress is that, contrary to expectation, the growth of our knowledge about nature has not made it easier to reach rational decisions.