Re: virus: The Trouble with Science

Sat, 02 Nov 1996 14:10:03 -0800

Damn, Reed! Now that what I call a book review. Thanks.

Take care. -KMO

Reed Konsler wrote:
> Hi everyone, sorry I've been out so long...
> Anyway, during my foray into the real world I processed another book we
> might be intersted in:
> "The Trouble with Science" by Robert Dunbar (Professor of Psychology,
> University of Liverpool) Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1995.
> 185 pages of densely packed ideas (about the same size as "The Selfish
> Gene" and written in a similar style) Dunbar does a good job of covering
> the bases on the philosophy and history of science without getting bogged
> down in details. He presents a pro-science viewpoint while attempting to
> address most of the postmodern criticisms (he refers to them as
> "philosophies of despair" which I think is so cool, even if it isn't
> original to him...does anyone know?). The language is very articulate, and
> while I think he streches some arguments to the limit of plausibility the
> book is overall an excellent introduction to these topics and on target.
> Unlike may philosophers/historians of science Dunbar attempts to adress
> what science is as a day-to-day affair not (as Popper does) a prescriptive
> ideology or (as Khun) a "big picture" socio-political construct. He is
> concerned with what science is as practiced day to day by so called
> scientists...and, based upon my experience in the trenches, he does an
> excellent job of explaining the ad hoc, pragmatic/functional proceedures
> most scientists follow. In my opinion he does the best job I've yet
> encountered in deconvoluting the many definitions of science and
> demonstrating where these differences in definition lead to logical
> problems and non-sequitorial cross-talk. There is no one definition of
> science, but Dunbar has done a great job of unpacking the significant ones.
> Dunbar is hip to memetics (though he doesn't address it specifically), he's
> read the books/authors we discuss here (Dawkins, Kuhn, Popper, Dennett) and
> addresses many of them directly. I think this is a great book in general
> and thought I'd recommend it specifically in the light of the discussions
> we've been having about what science is, how it's related to religions and
> other mythical systems of belief, and what it's limitations are. I
> couldn't put it down.
> Some Quotes I found particularly tasty:
> p.30
> "The real problem is that any fool can think up new ideas; the
> inconvenience of real life is that the key to progress lies in second
> guessing how the world actually works, and that is an altogether much
> harder task."
> p.31
> "Science, then, is a process of intense is all too easy to
> convince yourself that your latest brainchild is the cleverest idea since
> Einstein thought up the Theory of Reletivity...the species...has never been
> short of self-appointed prophets with new or unusual ideas to peddle. The
> problem is how to avoid wasting too much time chasing every
> will-o'-the-whisp that comes along."
> p.39
> "Essentially, if Aristotle could see the thing and dissect it, he usually
> got it [the biological hypothesis] more or less right; but if he could not,
> he invariably got it these cases he often resorted to the
> conventional wisdom of the day. As often as not, this was the product of
> idle speculation rather than careful observation."
> Oh, it's just chock full of good stuff...
> Cheers,
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
> Reed Konsler
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------