I have seen this sort of statement made by philosophers of science and others in recent decades, but I think it rests on a very recent notion of “science.” I think that ancient, medieval and even early modern science aimed primarily at explanation – at understanding how nature worked. Of course, starting with the early modern period, “measurement and prediction” loom larger, but still there is a strong lust for explanation. One feels it in Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, for all their interest in prediction. They want to know the way the world really is, and why it is that way. Later thinkers will speak of Newton and others as wanting to “think God’s thoughts after him”, which refers not merely to prediction but to understanding.
This recent emphasis on “models that predict” as if that is all that science is about, as if the question “Which model is closer to the real way nature works?” is an airy-fairy philosophical question that hardheaded scientists don’t any longer bother with, is to me a betrayal of the original spirit of science, as handed down to us from the ancient Greeks, through the medieval developments (which were greater than many think), and to the heroic ages of astronomy, physics, and chemistry in the 17th and 18th centuries. Even Darwin’s theory of evolution was not primarily about measurement and prediction – he had very few quantitative tools to work with for studying living things, and he wasn’t trying to predict which way evolution would turn, or trying to use evolutionary theory technologically for human benefit. He just wanted to understand and explain how species had arisen. The original Greek theoretical motive is still strong in him.
In very recent developments, where the Baconian technological motive has reached its apogee, and where the Kantian understanding of nature (we can never know the things in themselves, but only the appearances, so the most sensible thing for scientists to do is learn how to predict the appearances and remain silent about whether they tell us anything about the real character of nature) has become dominant, many scientists and philosophers of science are now saying that science has nothing to do with truth or reality or knowing what nature really is (all supposedly useless “philosophical” questions), but is merely about measurement and prediction – often with a view to technological control. I don’t think this is a positive development. I think the theoretical motive should always be greater in natural science than the predictive or the technological motive (though the technological motive is perfectly appropriate for engineers, medical scientists, etc.). The question, “Why does nature behave in this way?” is, so to speak, an epistemologically nobler question than “How can I predict and control things?”
Of course, answering the first question often enough enables us to answer the second, which is the primary reason why governments and businesses give out the billions they do for scientific research. But in the end, I think the motives of Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, etc. were higher and better motives for doing science than the motives of Bacon and Kant.