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BOOK REVIEWS Modern Science andthe Nature ofLife. By William S. Beck. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1957. Pp. 302. $5.75. A young physician turned philosopher, or perhaps just a thoughtful physician, has tried to encompass the limitless problems of modern science and die nature oflife in a stimulating, eclectic, knowledgeable, and at times vexing book. He is at his best when he dissects out and disposes of the necrotic superstitions and age-old myths which beset scientists as well as other human beings. The proper study of mankind being man and biology representing the medium in and by which man must be studied, it is fitting that science as it relates to man and medicine should occupy the major portion ofthis volume. The driving force which led Beck to write this book is stated as the beliefthat science and scientific methods are the best means available to us for solving the problems of our cultural crisis. There is no evidence that the philosophic constructs ofscience are effective in the affairs ofthe world today, at least the United States in 1958. Ifwe accept the point that science dominates the modern world, even ifthe average man disbelieves, doubts, or is merely confused about science, still it surely behooves us to try to find out what science is all about. Inevitably, such a survey is uneven in emphasis and in clarity, ifnot in accuracy, for the world ofscientific thought cannot be subsumed in a few hundred pages. When the reader 's knowledge is deep, the book seems shallow. Where one's knowledge is shallow, die book seems deep. This is true about most books. Nevertheless, a man from Mars totally ignorant ofscience could get a good bird's-eye view ofscience as process radier dian science as apparatus or technique from this book. Included in the discussion are die necessity for science and culture to come together and join forces on some common meeting ground, the definition ofscience illustrated by the development ofbiology into a science, and an emphasis on the necessity for accepting uncertainty. The parable ofSigmund and the amoeba illustrates the impossibility of finality. Certainty was never meant to be an illusory goal ofscientific thought. The history of the last few hundred years is recapitulated—from the cell theory to the complete revolution epitomized by Darwin and Pasteur. There is a thoughtful analysis of the current age of analysis, rejecting as it does the absolute, widi emphasis on words, conceptions, cybernetics, models, the meaning of meaning, and die decline of either-or alternatives. In addition, there is much discourse on the organization ofmatter, die nature oflife, the biochemistry and biophysics ofthe cell, and a vast collection ofmiscellaneous matters which expose enticing problems for anyone interested in biology. The style is 457 crisp and crackling like hot bacon, and we can pardon an occasional lapse such as a triple negative "can t help but" or "bacteria" used as a singular noun. What one misses is the discovery ofany basis for value judgments or the admission that even science or at least scientific thought, inspired by intention, is partly subjective and dissolves in the process of studying itself. Molecules and mechanism, matter and energy, brain and mind, are no nearer to comprehension than before. Faced with the certainty of uncertainty and die utterly improbable fact of life and all its bewildering complexities, we come nearest the possibility ofunderstanding through die processes of thought and action called science. But beyond science lies philosophy, and beyond philosophy lies something or nothing, depending on one's views, feelings, and beliefs. Skirting the border of this undiscovered country beyond science, from whose bourne no one returns, Beck has made a useful survey but not a clear exposition of the paradoxical spiritual essence of science—subjective, inspired, and intangible—which most people miss as they see darkly die laboratories, the continual proliferating ofever more complicated apparatus, and the scientist as magician. William B. Bean State University ofIowa Chemical Anthropology: A New Approach to Growth in Children. Icie G. Macy and Harriet J. Kelly. Chicago: University ofChicago Press, 1957. Pp. xviii + 149. $3.75. In die age ofhighly differentiated morphological, physiological, and behavioral sciences , the term "anthropology"—science of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 457-458
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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