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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.
A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses
Winner of the 2005 John Burroughs Medal Award for Natural History Writing
Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. Gathering Moss is a beautifully written mix of science and personal reflection that invites readers to explore and learn from the elegantly simple lives of mosses.
In this series of linked personal essays, Robin Wall Kimmerer leads general readers and scientists alike to an understanding of how mosses live and how their lives are intertwined with the lives of countless other beings. Kimmerer explains the biology of mosses clearly and artfully, while at the same time reflecting on what these fascinating organisms have to teach us.
Drawing on her diverse experiences as a scientist, mother, teacher, and writer of Native American heritage, Kimmerer explains the stories of mosses in scientific terms as well as in the framework of indigenous ways of knowing. In her book, the natural history and cultural relationships of mosses become a powerful metaphor for ways of living in the world.
Gender and Boyle's Law of Gases
Re-examines the assumptions and experimental evidence behind Boyle's Law.
Boyle's Law, which describes the relation between the pressure and volume of a gas, was worked out by Robert Boyle in the mid-1600s. His experiments are still considered examples of good scientific work and continue to be studied along with their historical and intellectual contexts by philosophers, historians, and sociologists. Now there is controversy over whether Boyle's work was based only on experimental evidence or whether it was influenced by the politics and religious controversies of the time, including especially class and gender politics.
Elizabeth Potter argues that even good science is sometimes influenced by such issues, and she shows that the work leading to the Gas Law, while certainly based on physical evidence, was also shaped by class and gendered considerations. At issue were two descriptions of nature, each supporting radically different visions of class and gender arrangements. Boyle's Law rested on mechanistic principles, but Potter shows us an alternative law based on hylozooic principles (the belief that all matter is animated), whose adherents challenged social stability and the status quo in 17th-century England.
Elizabeth Potter, Alice Andrews Quigley Professor of Women's Studies at Mills College, is co-editor of Feminist Epistemologies and author of numerous articles on feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy of science.
Race, Gender, and Science
Anne Fausto-Sterling, general editor
232 pages, 5 figs., 6 x 9, index
cloth 0-253-33916-2 $34.95 L /
Building on the Leopold Legacy
Van Rensselaer Potter created and defined the term "bioethics" in 1970, to describe a new philosophy that sought to integrate biology, ecology, medicine, and human values. Bioethics is often linked to environmental ethics and stands in sharp contrast to biomedical ethics. Because of this confusion (and appropriation of the term in medicine), Potter chose to use the term "Global Bioethics" in 1988. Potter's definition of bioethics from Global Bioethics is, "Biology combined with diverse humanistic knowledge forging a science that sets a system of medical and environmental priorities for acceptable survival."
The Predicament of Common Responsibility
"Peg Birmingham's reading of Arendt's work is absolutely unique. She seeks nothing less than an ontological foundation of the political, and in particular, the notion of human rights." -- Bernard Flynn, The New School for Social Research
Hannah Arendt's most important contribution to political thought may be her well-known and often-cited notion of the "right to have rights." In this incisive and wide-ranging book, Peg Birmingham explores the theoretical and social foundations of Arendt's philosophy on human rights. Devoting special consideration to questions and issues surrounding Arendt's ideas of common humanity, human responsibility, and natality, Birmingham formulates a more complex view of how these basic concepts support Arendt's theory of human rights. Birmingham considers Arendt's key philosophical works along with her literary writings, especially those on Walter Benjamin and Franz Kafka, to reveal the extent of Arendt's commitment to humanity even as violence, horror, and pessimism overtook Europe during World War II and its aftermath. This current and lively book makes a significant contribution to philosophy, political science, and European intellectual history.