Books  General Natural History  Philosophy, Ethics & Religion 

Are We All Scientific Experts Now?

Series: New Human Frontiers

By: Harry Collins (Author)

140 pages, b/w illustrations

Polity Press

Paperback | Feb 2014 | #232027 | ISBN-13: 9780745682044
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £9.99 $12/€11 approx
Hardback | Feb 2014 | #232026 | ISBN-13: 9780745682037
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £39.99 $49/€45 approx

About this book

To ordinary people, science used to seem infallible. Scientists were heroes, selflessly pursuing knowledge for the common good. More recently, a series of scientific scandals, frauds and failures have led us to question science's pre-eminence. Revelations such as Climategate, or debates about the safety of the MMR vaccine, have dented our confidence in science.

In this provocative new book Harry Collins seeks to redeem scientific expertise, and reasserts science's special status. Despite the messy realities of day-to-day scientific endeavor, he emphasizes the superior moral qualities of science, dismissing the dubious "default" expertise displayed by many of those outside the scientific community. Science, he argues, should serve as an example to ordinary citizens of how to think and act, and not the other way round.

"To the extent we might come to witness a reaction against the fallen idol of everyone thinking they are an expert, Are We All Scientific Experts Now? might come to be a classic, a Gangnam Style shot across the STS bow."

"In his remarkable manifesto, sociologist Harry Collins, a major voice in the field of science studies, answers the provocative question presented in the book's title: Are We All Scientific Experts Now? Collins starts out by outlining science's fall from grace in the public's eye and by presenting a tongue-in-cheek caricature of scientific expertise based on the zeitgeist he holds responsible for the distortions."
Physics Today

"A valuable contribution to the ways in which we ascribe value to expertise [...] Although Collins convincingly answers the book's title question with a resounding no, what is most interesting and refreshing about his analysis is that it enables people holding different kinds of expertise to recognise their role in scientific debate."
LSE Review of Books

"Certainly a book for those who are interested in science and its role in society. For those who are curious about how scientists tackle problems and why they do often have the answers, it should prove illuminating."
Times Higher Education

"This brave, thoughtful little book should be sent to every newspaper editor. Collins doesn't write with Ben Goldacre's righteous anger, but his careful, nuanced scholarship is just as persuasive."
– Seamus O Mahony, Dublin Review of Books

"Masterful new book."
Mother Jones

"Brief book with a very high level argument relying a lot on his experience [...] this kind of nuanced, important thinking about science and expertise is a wonderful gift from Collins that I truly hope we don't squander."
Stark Reality – Todd I. Stark

''I read this short book with admiration – an analysis by a social scientist which (unlike much of that genre) should resonate with most actual researchers.''
– Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Former President of the Royal Society

''Packed into a slim polemic that succinctly yet movingly distills years of painstaking research into expertise, Harry Collins delivers an immensely rich book –  a thorough cultural and intellectual analysis of why attitudes towards towards scientific expertise have changed, and why a new view of them needs to be adopted, to preserve society. Readers who are new to Collins's ideas will find come away with a fresh take on explosive controversies, including Climategate and anti-vaccination campaigns. Long time readers of Collins will be amazed at how accessible his technical arguments are and the big impact that's made by seeing them integrated into a gripping, short-form narrative.''
– Evan Selinger, Rochester Institute of Technology

"[O]ne of the best examples of practical philosophy of science for regular people I have encountered."
– ScienceBlogs


Figures and Tables page vi

Introduction: The Growing Crisis of Expertise 1
1 Academics and How the World Feels 17
2 Experts 49
3 Citizen Sceptics 80
4 Citizen Whistle-blowers 103
Conclusion: Are We All Experts Now? 115

Notes 133
Bibliography 138
Index 142

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Harry Collins is Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Knowledge, Expertise and Science (KES) at Cardiff University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy. He has written 17 previous books including the well-known Golem series on science. Harry Collins is continuing his research on the nature of scientific knowledge, on the analysis of expertise and on the sociology of gravitational wave detection.

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