July 24, 2007

SCIENCE WARS


Caption: Goats study the science of irritating humans. Actually, they've perfected it.

Let's start with an unsolicited product endorsement. El Cabrero is a big fan of The Teaching Company and Recorded Books' Modern Scholar series, both of which provide audio courses on all kinds of topics by recognized scholars.

Many public libraries carry these items. With them, you can "read" and learn while, driving, jogging, mowing the lawn, chasing the goats, etc.

One that I'm enjoying at the moment is Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How they Know it by Steven L. Goodman.

Goldman points out early on that just as the natural sciences reached their highest level of prestige in the mid-20th century, they came under attack from a number of different directions. Here are some:

*In the wake of the Vietnam War and concerns about nuclear devastation, many people criticized the sciences for their collaboration with governments and corporations engaged in making and using destructive weapons and products such as napalm and Agent Orange. This was not a criticism of science as such but rather of the uses to which it was put;

*Within the sciences and the field of the philosophy of science, there was a growing movement which questioned the objectivity of science and the claim that it was value free and neutral. Some authors, such as Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, suggested that science was more a matter of developing paradigms or models of the world that accounted for observations than of "reflecting" objective processes;

*In the field of literary and social theory, some people argued that the sciences were social constructions and that knowledge claims were often based on the interests of powerful groups who inflicted their power/knowledge on others. Later, post-modernists claimed that science was just one of many possible narratives for describing the world and had no special claim to validity;

*From a completely different direction, there was a rising fundamentalist backlash against the findings of the natural sciences on areas such as evolution, the origin and age of the universe, etc.

All of these tendencies have left their mark on the current state of the public view of science and contemporary confusion about its nature and role.

AT LEAST NOW WE KNOW about that UFO/Air Force dogfight over Braxton County in the 1950s.

THIS JUST IN. If you are looking for scientific data on how to deal with a drunk person you are shocking with electricity, click here. The take home message seems to be that people who are drunk are less belligerent when distracted.

BACKLASH AGAINST GLOBALIZATION. From the UK Financial Times:

A popular backlash against globalization and the leaders of the world’s largest companies is sweeping all rich countries, an FT/Harris poll shows.

Large majorities of people in the US and in Europe want higher taxation for the rich and even pay caps for corporate executives to counter what they believe are unjustified rewards and the negative effects of globalization...

The issue of rising inequality is now high on the political agenda of every country and will feature prominently in the 2008 US presidential election.


GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

2 comments:

maplehouse said...

Greetings,

For those interested in Dr. Robert Hazen's 2006 Teaching Company
course "Origin of Life" or his 2005 book "Genesis", I've created a
phpBB forum for friendly, in-depth discussion, one lecture at a time:

http://teachingcompany.12.forumer.com/viewforum.php?f=17

No login is required to read, reply, quote or post. I see an
advantage of everyone being able to get through this course at their
own speed, though it might make more sense not to get too far ahead of
others.

cheers,
Doug

El Cabrero said...

Thanks for your note--I wish a library near me had "The Origin of Life." Thanks for the link as well.