When Galileo dropped cannon-balls from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, he did more than overturn centuries of scientific orthodoxy. At a stroke, he established a new conception of the scientific method based upon careful experimentation and rigorous observation – and also laid the groundwork for an ongoing conflict between the critical open-mindedness of science and the recalcitrant dogmatism of religion that would continue to the modern day.
The problem is that Galileo never performed his most celebrated experiment in Pisa. In fact, he rarely conducted any experiments at all. The Church publicly celebrated his work, and Galileo enjoyed patronage from the great and the powerful; his ecclesiastical difficulties only began when disgruntled colleagues launched a campaign to discredit their academic rival. But what does this tell us about modern science if its own foundation myth turns out to be nothing more than political propaganda?
Getting Science Wrong discusses some of the most popular misconceptions about science, and their continuing role in the public imagination. Drawing upon the history and philosophy of science it challenges wide-spread assumptions and misunderstandings, from creationism and climate change to the use of statistics and computer modelling. The result is an engaging introduction to contentious issues in the philosophy of science and a new way of looking at the role of science in society.
Part I: The Scientific Method
1. Making the Earth Move
Observation, Experiment, and the Politics of Science
2. A Habit of the Mind
Causation and Correlation in Computer Simulation
3. Learning From Our Mistakes
The Critical Testing of Scientific Theories
4. Living in Different Worlds
Scientific Theories and Scientific Revolutions
5. 88.6% of All Statistics Are Made Up
The Evolutionary Basis of Bad Scientific Reasoning
Part II: Science and Society
6. The Bankruptcy of Science
Evaluating the Track-Record of Scientific Practice
7. The God in the Machine (and the Devil in the Details)
Some Heretical Thoughts About the Relationship Between Science and Religion
8. On the Secret Lives of Atoms
Free Will and Quantum Mechanics
9. How to Fail the Turing Test
Rethinking Artificial Intelligence
10. The Return of the Magician
The Academic Study of Science
Paul Dicken received his PhD from the University of Cambridge, and has held academic positions at universities in the UK, Germany and Australia.
"Paul Dicken takes us on a romp through the history and philosophy of science. This is a fun and accessible resource for anyone who wants to think more carefully about how science works."
– Kevin Elliott, Associate Professor, Michigan State University, USA