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Posts Tagged ‘Ziauddin Sardar’

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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I’ve been mostly in bed all week (since last Friday) with a flu-like bug which has morphed into an inner-ear infection which has resulted in pretty bad dizziness (vertigo), a hacking cough, sinus headaches and all-around misery.  Sunday and Monday I was running a pretty good fever which finally crested at 102.5 and then broke about 10:00 PM on Monday night.   If I could just get rid of this dizziness, I’d be feeling pretty decent today.  Still, I shouldn’t complain.  I’m a lot better than I was…
Today was my first day back on my feet for any real length of time.  I went to the doctor’s office yesterday, but that was getting driven to and from (by Hil) and then sitting in the front office chair until they squeezed me in.  Then straight back to bed…  Anyway, this morning I was up long enough to make myself some new “Green-Juice” in my juicer.  I don’t know if it’ll help me get better, faster, but it was nice to move around a bit.
I’m trying out a new “blend” today.  This one isn’t near the hodge-podge I’ve been throwing together.  This one is: 1 bunch Kale, 1 bunch Celery, 1/2 white onion, 2 in of ginger, 2 apples, 8 large carrots – all juiced, with a bag of spinach and a bag of salad greens (mostly Romain lettuce) blended in.  I then added a slosh of lemon concentrate, a cup of apple juice, a cup of lemonade and a cup of orange juice.  This made two 64 oz bottles of “Green-Juice”.  The taste is a LOT better than the last batch I made which included various greens, radishes and beetroots and it doesn’t taste like dirt.  It DOES taste a lot like freshly cut and blended grass with onion and a twist of lemon.  …Which isn’t too bad actually!
You just have to keep telling yourself, “It’s good for me!”
I also made a 64 oz bottle of fruit juice from apple juice, four apples, two ripe bananas, lemon concentrate, lemonade, and orange juice.  That’s blended (not juiced) and it has a nice banana smoothie taste and texture.
It all took a while, because I feel like I’m moving in treacle, and I pretty much collapsed into a chair for rest afterwards.
So, now I’ve struggled over to my desktop to do this bit of blogging…
Believe it or not, I’ve managed to plough through three books so far this week.  They are: “That First Season“, “Marshall” and “Introducing Mathematics“.   Now I don’t promise my recollection of them to be all that great a week from now, but today I feel like I still remember the gist of each of the books.  So, here goes the review for each:
That First Season” is written by John Eisenberg (2009©).  The book traces the 1959 season of the Green Bay Packers.  This was Vince Lombardi’s first year as a head coach in the National Football League and how he turned his team around from the worst team in the league the prior year to a competitive team (they finished with a record of 9 wins and 5 losses).
The following decade, the 1960’s, was the Packer’s dynasty which included winning the first two (ever) SuperBowls.  Looking back, Lombardi was probably (definitely) one of the dominant professional coaches of my youth.  His supposed quote: “Winning isn’t the most important thing.  Winning is everything!” is probably the most iconic quote from my childhood years.
This book is about the year when it (the dynasty) could have gone another direction (and never been).  Obviously, it didn’t go the other way and this book attempts to capture the spirit of the man, the team and the town as the dynasty is created.  And, I must admit, does a very good job of it.  I’ve read several books about American football over the last couple of years and this is definitely the best of the lot.  This book is NOT about “X’s” and “O’s”, but you can, in fact, pick out quite a bit of theory if you read carefully.  Instead this book is about a time in history and a sport, a man, a town, a team and a season.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in sport, leadership or even as a study in chaos theory – where a small change of a starting factor can have a profound impact on a larger event.
The second book is “Marshall” (2010©), written by H. Paul Jeffers with Alan Axelrod.  This book is one of the “Great General Series” about “Lessons In Leadership“.  The book traces the life and legacy of General George C. Marshall.  Marshall is probably the greatest strategic, diplomatic and effective logistician America has ever produced.  In addition to being the top non-civilian commander throughout World War II, he was also the prime architect of the rebuilding of Europe and Japan after the war.  For his plan (the “Marshall Plan“), General Marshal, who was then U.S. Secretary of State was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.  He remains the only military commander to have been awarded the Peace Prize.
What follows is a mixed review.  That is because this is a very good book about a great man, however, I struggle to describe anything which makes it useful as a lesson in leadership.  General Marshall was an extremely private man, so merely tracing his life does little to provide insight into how he became a leader or what he considered in making his decisions.  One is left with simply observing the decisions and actions and attempting to derive the leadership lessons from the observations.  For some, this is more than enough.  For the General, I do not get this sense.
What is the reader left with then?  (This is redundant…)  A very private, dedicated man striving to achieve personal excellence in order to protect his nation; a man who returns to service for his country despite the petty attacks from those who are unfit to polish his shoes (Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin); and, a man who is the ultimate logistical problem solver at a global scale.  It’s too bad there wasn’t more information on how he did things or the what he thought about things before deciding to do them.  This is the second book I’ve read (recently) on the General, and unfortunately, I don’t believe there is any such work.  I already own another biography (so far, unread) on Marshall and am contemplating purchasing the four volume “Forrest Pogue” set which is considered the definitive version.  Why?  Because the idea of such a great leader and also such a great American …  fascinates me!!  Again, a very good read and highly recommended!
The third book is: “Introducing Mathematics”  (1999©) by Ziauddin Sardar, Jerry Ravetz and Borin Van Loon.  This is another in the “Introducing” series which hopes to bring an overview of any given topic via a series of pictures and brief sentences/paragraphs about the great people and ideas related to the topic.  This time, the topic is math and the explanation covers from the dawn of civilization to the present and all of civilization (Eastern, Western, Egyptian, American Indian, Arabic, etc) too.  If you want a broad based overview of a lot of the main topics under math – including the people and timeframes – this is the book for you.  If you’re looking for in depth coverage and knowledge, it’s only a springboard.  In either case, it’s more than satisfactory and I highly recommend it, too.
How’s that for an unlikely trilogy?  Three high recommends…
And now, back to bed I stagger… (whew)
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