There is ample evidence that it is difficult for the general public to understand and internalize scientific facts. Disputes over such facts are often amplified amid political controversies. As we've seen with climate change and even COVID-19, politicians rely on the perceptions of their constituents when making decisions that impact public policy. So, how do we make sure that what the public understands is accurate? In Science Wars, Steven L. Goldman traces the public's suspicion of scientific knowledge claims to a broad misunderstanding, reinforced by scientists themselves, of what it is that scientists know, how they know it, and how to act on the basis of it.
In sixteen chapters, Goldman takes readers through the history of scientific knowledge from Plato and Aristotle, through the birth of modern science and its maturation, into a powerful force for social change to the present day. He explains how scientists have wrestled with their own understanding of what it is that they know, that theories evolve, and why the public misunderstands the reliability of scientific knowledge claims.
With many examples drawn from the history of philosophy and science, the chapters illustrate an ongoing debate over how we know what we say we know and the relationship between knowledge and reality. Goldman covers a rich selection of ideas from the founders of modern science and John Locke's response to Newton's theories to Thomas Kuhn's re-interpretation of scientific knowledge and the Science Wars that followed it. Goldman relates these historical disputes to current issues, underlining the important role scientists play in explaining their own research to nonscientists and the effort nonscientists must make to incorporate science into public policies. A narrative exploration of scientific knowledge, Science Wars engages with the arguments of both sides by providing thoughtful scientific, philosophical, and historical discussions on every page.
Chapter 1. Knowledge as a Problem.
Chapter 2. Is There a Scientific Method?
Chapter 3. Was Galileo Right and the Catholic Church Wrong?
Chapter 4. Newton and Knowledge of the Universe
Chapter 5. Science versus Philosophy
Chapter 6. Science and Social Reform in the Age of Reason
Chapter 7. What is Science About?
Chapter 8. The Knowledge Problem in Mature Science
Chapter 9. Scientific Realism and the Romantic Reaction against Reason
Chapter 10. Early Twentieth Century Philosophy of Science
Chapter 11. Einstein versus Bohr on Reality
Chapter 12. In Quest of the Thinker of Science
Chapter 13. A New Image for Science
Chapter 14. The Opening Phase of the Science Wars
Chapter 15. Taking Sides for and against Reason and Knowledge
Chapter 16. The Science Wars Go Public
Steven L. Goldman is Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, at Lehigh University. He earned a BS in physics from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and an MA and PhD in philosophy from Boston University. For two years, he taught at the Graduate Faculty of The New School for Social Research before becoming Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. He taught logic and the history and philosophy of science and co-founded the STS Program at Penn State. He then moved to Lehigh where he held the Mellon Professorship for 39 years prior to his recent retirement.
"In a world where 'truth' has become as subjective as beauty, Science Wars is essential reading. A wide-ranging tour de force, this book tells us about the nature of knowledge, leavened with clever asides: Galileo was arrogant, Newton dismissed dissenters, and Carl Friedrich Gauss and Leonard Euler are candidates for the greatest mathematician of all time. All this to say, Steve Goldman is an engaging writer"
– William L. Silber, Senior Advisor, Cornerstone Research; Former Marcus Nadler Professor of Finance and Economics, Stern School of Business, New York University; and author most recently of The Power of Nothing to Lose
"This book is well written and carefully presented. Steven Goldman's focus on the evolution of science from the 17th century to present day provides an excellent lens through which to explore what is meant by scientific 'knowledge.'"
– Rachel A. Ankeny, The University of Adelaide
"Goldman's writing style is engaging and clear as he describes the problem of scientific knowledge and the two major approaches. While reading, I was impressed that he could engage with such important material in such a succinct way"
– Allan Franklin, University of Colorado Boulder