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Dispatches from the Edges of Science
In the pursuit of knowledge, Dorion Sagan argues in this dazzlingly eclectic, rigorously crafted, and deliciously witty collection of essays, scientific authoritarianism and philosophical obscurantism are equally formidable obstacles to discovery. As science has become more specialized and more costly, its questing spirit has been constrained by dogma. And philosophy, perhaps the discipline best placed to question orthodoxy, has retreated behind dense theoretical language and arcane topics of learning.
Guided by a capacious, democratic view of science inspired by the examples set by his late parents—Carl Sagan, who popularized the study of the cosmos, and Lynn Margulis, an evolutionary biologist who repeatedly clashed with the scientific establishment—Sagan draws on classical and contemporary philosophy to intervene provocatively in often-charged debates on thermodynamics, linear and nonlinear time, purpose, ethics, the links between language and psychedelic drugs, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and the occupation of the human body by microbial others. Informed by a countercultural sensibility, a deep engagement with speculative thought, and a hardheaded scientific skepticism, he advances controversial positions on such seemingly sacrosanct subjects as evolution and entropy. At the same time, he creatively considers a wide range of thinkers, from Socrates to Bataille and Descartes to von Uexküll, to reflect on sex, biopolitics, and the free will of Kermit the Frog.
Refreshingly nonconformist and polemically incisive, Cosmic Apprentice challenges readers to reject both dogma and cliché and instead recover the intellectual spirit of adventure that should—and can once again—animate both science and philosophy.
How Physicists Take Hold of the World
Doing Physics makes concepts of physics easier to grasp by relating them to everyday knowledge. Addressing some of the models and metaphors that physicists use to explain the physical world, Martin H. Krieger describes the conceptual world of physics by means of analogies to economics, anthropology, theater, carpentry, mechanisms such as clockworks, and machine tool design. The interaction of elementary particles or chemical species, for example, can be related to the theory of kinship—who can marry whom is like what can interact with what. Likewise, the description of physical situations in terms of interdependent particles and fields is analogous to the design of a factory with its division of labor among specialists. For the new edition, Krieger has revised the text and added a chapter on the role of mathematics and formal models in physics. Doing Physics will be of special interest to economists, political theorists, anthropologists, and sociologists as well as philosophers of science.
Dinosaurs and the Science Wars
"... are dinosaurs social constructs? Do we really know anything about dinosaurs? Might not all of our beliefs about dinosaurs merely be figments of the paleontological imagination? A few years ago such questions would have seemed preposterous, even nonsensical. Now they must have a serious answer."
At stake in the "Science Wars" that have raged in academe and in the media is nothing less than the standing of science in our culture. One side argues that science is a "social construct," that it does not discover facts about the world, but rather constructs artifacts disguised as objective truths. This view threatens the authority of science and rejects science's claims to objectivity, rationality, and disinterested inquiry. Drawing Out Leviathan examines this argument in the light of some major debates about dinosaurs: the case of the wrong-headed dinosaur, the dinosaur "heresies" of the 1970s, and the debate over the extinction of dinosaurs.
Keith Parsons claims that these debates, though lively and sometimes rancorous, show that evidence and logic, not arbitrary "rules of the game," remained vitally important, even when the debates were at their nastiest. They show science to be a complex set of activities, pervaded by social influences, and not easily reducible to any stereotype. Parsons acknowledges that there are lessons to be learned by scientists from their would-be adversaries, and the book concludes with some recommendations for ending the Science Wars.
Its Nature, Ethics, and Promise
We all live our daily lives surrounded by the products of technology that make what we do simpler, faster, and more efficient. These are benefits we often just take for granted. But at the same time, as these products disburden us of unwanted tasks that consumed much time and effort in earlier eras, many of them also leave us more disengaged from our natural and even human surroundings. It is the task of what Gene Moriarty calls focal engineering to create products that will achieve a balance between disburdenment and engagement: “How much disburdenment will be appropriate while still permitting an engagement that enriches one’s life, elevates the spirit, and calls forth a good life in a convivial society?”One of his examples of a focally engineered structure is the Golden Gate Bridge, which “draws people to it, enlivens and elevates the human spirit, and resonates with the world of its congenial setting. Humans, bridge, and world are in tune.” These values of engagement, enlivenment, and resonance are key to the normative approach Moriarty brings to the profession of engineering, which traditionally has focused mainly on technical measures of evaluation such as efficiency, productivity, objectivity, and precision. These measures, while important, look at the engineered product in a local and limited sense. But “from a broader perspective, what is locally benign may present serious moral problems,” undermining “social justice, environmental sustainability, and health and safety of affected parties.” It is this broader perspective that is championed by focal engineering, the subject of Part III of the book, which Moriarty contrasts with “modern” engineering in Part I and “pre-modern” engineering in Part II.
An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge
Guided by the founding ideas of American pragmatism, Epistemology provides a clear example of the basic concepts involved in knowledge acquisition and explains the principles at work in the development of rational inquiry. It examines how these principles analyze the course of scientific progress and how the development of scientific inquiry inevitably encounters certain natural disasters. At the center of the book’s deliberations there lies not only the potential for scientific progress but also the limit of science as well. This comprehensive introduction to the theory of knowledge addresses a myriad of topics, including the critique of skepticism, the nature of rationality, the possibility of science for extraterrestrial intelligences, and the prospect of insoluble issues in science.
Most people have heard about quantum physics and its remarkable, well-nigh bizarre claims. And most people would assume that quantum reality describes a world quite different from ours. In this book, David A. Grandy shows that one can find quantum puzzles, or variations thereof, in the backyard of everyday experience. What disappears in transferring quantum theory to the everyday is the theory's mathematical formalism, but that need not imply a loss of analytic rigor. If quantum reality is truly as elemental and ubiquitous as many thinkers suggest, then alternative or complementary perspectives ought to be possible, and with the proliferation of such perspectives, a more fully rounded understanding of quantum reality -- and everyday reality -- might emerge. Everyday Quantum Reality is a step in that direction.
A Source Book
This book presents key documents from the pre-1915 history of the extraterrestrial life debate. Introductions and commentaries accompany each source document, some of which are published here for the first time or in a new translation. Authors included are Aristotle, Lucretius, Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Fontenelle, Huygens, Newton, Pope, Voltaire, Kant, Paine, Chalmers, Darwin, Wallace, Dostoevski, Lowell, and Antoniadi, among others. Michael J. Crowe has compiled an extensive bibliography not available in other sources. These materials reveal that the extraterrestrial life debate, rather than being a relatively modern phenomenon, has extended throughout nearly all Western history and has involved many of its leading intellectuals. The readings also demonstrate that belief in extraterrestrial life has had major effects on science and society, and that metaphysical and religious views have permeated the debate throughout much of its history.
Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness
"Fighting for Life is a book about contest, the agonia of the Greek arena, and its roots in male life, especially academia. Ong describes this work as an 'excavation' which was prompted by his previous explorations of such areas as the characteristics of oral and literate cultures, Peter Ramus and his 16th-century intellectual milieu, and the early dominance and more recent decline of classical rhetoric in education. In Fighting for Life, he weaves the results of a year's study of agonistic structures running through the biological, social, and noetic worlds. Describing his text as an 'essay in noobiology,' the biological roots of human consciousness, Ong claims that 'contest has been a major factor in organic evolution and it turns out to have been a major, and seemingly essential, factor in intellectual development.' . . . The work is a valuable synthesis of a wide body of research and theory."-Rhetoric Society Quarterly
Deleuze, Science, and Philosophy