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Posts Tagged ‘Poor to Moderate Book Recommendation’

Introducing Science”  —  book review
Today’s review is for the graphic introductory book:  “Introducing Science” (2001©) written by Ziauddin Sardar and Borin Van Loon.  This book is apparently a recovered (as in published with a new cover) book which was previously titled:  “Introducing Science Studies“.  The original title is FAR more accurate and the title I purchased is misleading, if not completely false.  This is not a book about “Science”.  It starts off as a history of science and jumps into being a criticism of the philosophy of science and an overview of the history of the social epistemology of science during the later half of the 20th century.
What’s the difference?  Well, to me, science is the study of what we can measure and quantify with the goal of better understanding the universe as we experience it.  Basically, you observe; you propose an explanation; you come up with a test of your proposal;  you execute the test and accurately record the results;  you evaluate the results for significance; and, then you publish your results and conclusions for peer review.  If the review shows the test flawed or the data is not significant or not repeatable, then your results —  and specifically your conclusions are unproven “scientifically”.   You then have to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new test or a better theory.  Ultimately, the final goal of “understanding” is to have a theory with predictive value.
This book deals with none of these issues.
What this book DOES do is make claims about science being “Western” and “male” dominated as well as offering statements about the value of science(s) from other cultures without providing any support for the statements.  I don’t doubt that some “medicine man” (person) in some non-Western country may have observed the medicinal value of some root or herb and used it in their healings.  That doesn’t make it scientific pharmacology.  And the authors keep making these types of statements as if simply making them makes them valid criticisms of “Western”.
So, if I didn’t think much of this book as an “introduction” to science, is it of any value?  Interestingly, yes.  I found the book to be a pretty good introduction / overview of the sociological criticisms of science.   The main criticism of the book is really about how “normal” science has become “BIG science” and is funded by business and government without apparent ethical review by society.  The book doesn’t say why this is so.  Simply that it is.  And, I mostly agree with the authors even without supporting evidence.  Private profit drives most scientific development these days.  That’s just the way it is.  The authors do say that since the end of the Cold War, big science as shifted from government funding of physics to corporate funding of biology / pharmacology.  And I agree with that, too.
Final recommendation:  poor to moderate.  If you are looking for an introduction to “science” or the history of science – forget it.  This book is “almost” worthless.  The only value I see is in the “Further Reading” notes at the end of the book.  If you are looking for an overview of the politics of science, the philosophy of science, the sociology of science, feminist criticism, colonial criticism, and post-“normal” criticism – then this is the book for you (and I’d say the recommendation becomes “strong to highly”).
One final comment:  I recently read and reviewedThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn.  Kuhn’s book is the work that “created” the conceptual split between “revolutionary” science and “normal” science.  In the past, science was thought to progress like a river.  Kuhn’s book proposes that it more like a river with a random occurrence of waterfalls.  “Normal” science is what most scientists do every day.  The “waterfalls” are Newton, Einstein, etc. who come along with brilliant insights.  I found it amusing to see a work I’d so recently read reported as a “classic” work from the last century.  It made me appreciate Kuhn’s work even more…
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On This Day In:
2019 I Wish This Were More True
2018 Used To Rejection
Day 16: Looking Ahead (Just A Little)
2017 Tonight
I Rejoice
2016 Conscientious Courage
Speaking Of Which…
2015 The Beautiful Snow
2014 Nurtured By The Voices
2013 Précis
2012 Fear And Understanding
2011 Just Being Human

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Circles” (2000©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for one of the many books written by James Burke, who’s claim to fame is his ability to popularize science / technology with history and biography to “create” linkages which make the world (and history) appear to be interconnected.  I believe his most well known work is the book and the BBC series “Connections“.  At least this is how I first came to know Burke (and enjoy his work).
Circles” is sub-titled “50 Round Trips through History, Technology, Science, Culture“.  The book is a collection of essays which have been gathered into this form.  Each “essay” / “trip” is about four pages and they are each fairly self-contained, so there is no inherent requirement to read them in order – or all of them for that matter.  Each starts with some action in his life: a trip to the library, beach, coffee shop, etc; winds through the “circle” of people / history / discovery he is hi-lighting and then gets wrapped up with another reference to the initial action / place.
The stories are mildly interesting.  The links are tenuous.  The author occasionally breaks the fourth wall.  But, most frequently, the author writes in a peculiar conversational form which struck me as not using full sentences or proper sentence structure.  I found it hard to discern if this was more conversational, breaking of the fourth wall or simply lazy writing.  In the end, I just found it frustrating to try to figure out the subject of a sentence by having to re-read sentences (or paragraphs).
Final recommendation: poor to moderate recommendation.  I admit to being pretty disappointed.  I was a big fan of his “Connections” series and watched it on my local Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) many years ago.  I think I also read the book (way back when), but I can’t swear to it.  I was, therefore, looking forward to more of the same.  This book mostly was “just” the same, but (surprisingly) much less interesting or amusing.  Now I think I have to go back and find the original book (“Connections“) to see if the author has changed or if it’s the reader (me) who has changed.
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On This Day In:
2019 Eureka!
2018 Learning About My Humanity
2017 Laugh Or Shake Your Head
2016 The Expected Cure
2015 Of Two Minds
2014 Pride And Remembrance
2013 Repeating Bad Memories
2012 No Sooner
2011 Just Cheesy!
Are You Illin’?

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