256 pages, 103 illustrations
Sacred Bovines is a collection of short essays, each challenging a commonplace assumption about biology – playfully dubbed Sacred Bovines. The essays aim to be both provocative and entertaining. They highlight amusing ironies and fascinating details, such as organisms that blur the distinction of male and female, tool use and language among non-humans, errors made by Charles Darwin or Nobel Prize winners, and how research on cells was enriched by a Marxist perspective. As an ensemble, the essays aim to deepen an understanding of how science works, including its cultural contexts. The 28 pieces are arranged in 7 thematic sections, focusing on such topics as error in science, "myth-conceptions" of scientists, cultural bias in scientific concepts, the challenge of expertise and "what counts as science" in society, and science and values. While all the essays focus on cases in biology, most of the lessons are more general, and valuable for any citizen who reflects on science in society. A final Epilogur profiles the value of the style of thinking exemplified throughout Sacred Bovines – namely, the light-hearted challenging of assumptions as a source of creative insight. An additional "Afterword for Teachers" highlights how the essays can foster learning about the nature of science and describes some practical classroom strategies.
Prologue: The Ironies of Misplaced Assumptions
The Way of Science
1 Monsters and Marvels
2 The Messy Story Behind the Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology
3 Ahead of the Curve
4 Marxism and Cell Biology
5 The Dogma of the Scientific Method
Darwin, Evolution & Society
6 Was Darwin a Social Darwinist?
7 Social Un-Darwinism
8 A More Fitting Analogy
9 The Domesticated Gene
10 A Comedy of Scientific Errors
11 Nobel Ideals and Noble Errors
12 Celebrating Darwin's Errors
What Counts as Science
13 Science Beyond Scientists
14 Skepticism and the Architecture of Trust
15 Science Con-Artists
Naturalizing Cultural Values
16 Male, Female, and/or -?
17 Monsters and the Tyranny of Normality
18 To Be Human
19 Genes R Us
20 The Peppered Moths, A Study in Black and White
21 Alexander Fleming's "Eureka" Moment
22 Round vs. Wrinkled: Gregor Mendel as Icon
23 William Harvey and Capillaries
24 The Tragic Hero of Childbed Fever
Values & Biology Education
25 Respect for Life
26 Hands-Off Dissection?
27 Organisms, Modified, Genetically
28 Close to Nature
Epilogue: Challenging Our Sacred Bovines
Afterword for Educators
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Douglass Allchin is is a historian and philosopher of science and science educator. He holds a PhD in "Conceptual Foundations of Science" from the University of Chicago. He has taught at the University of Minnesota since 2001, specializing in courses on teaching history of science.