Science is remarkably reliable. It puts people on the moon, performs laser eye surgery, tells us about ancient civilizations and species, and predicts the future of our climate. What underwrites this reliability? This book argues that the standard answers – the scientific method, rigour, and objectivity – are insufficient for the job.
Here the authors propose a new model of science which places its products front and centre. In The Tangle of Science we show how any reliable piece of science is underpinned by a vast, diverse, and thick network of other scientific products. In doing so we bring back into focus areas of science that have been long neglected, emphasizing how every product, from the screws that hold the space shuttle together, to ways of measuring the consumer price index, to Einstein's theory of general relativity, work together to support results we can trust.
Preface - What This Book is About
Part 1: The Usual Suspects
1. Scientific Method
Part 2: The Tangle of Science
4. The Tangle
5. Illustrating the Tangle: Episodes from the History of Science
6. The Tangled Principle of the Democratic Peace
7. Afterword: The Study of Gravitational Waves: A Cautionary Lesson
Nancy Cartwright is a philosopher of science focusing on evidence, objectivity, modelling, and causation. The first half of her career at Stanford she worked in the philosophy of physics; in the second half, at LSE, Durham and UCSD, on the philosophy of the social and economic sciences and the philosophy of social technology, with recent attention to evidence-based policy. She is a fellow of the British Academy and the (UK) Academy of Social Science, a member of the German Academy of Science (Leopoldina) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the Hempel Award and a MacArthur Fellowship.
Jeremy Hardie was a Fellow and Tutor in Economics at Keble College, Oxford, from 1968 to 1975. After that, he worked as a businessman and a public servant for many years. He returned to academia in 1998 and is currently a Research Associate at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics.
Eleonora Montuschi is a philosopher of science with a particular interest in the social sciences. She works on objectivity, the use of evidence and the relation between scientific experts, democratic institutions and engaged citizenship. Before moving to Ca' Foscari she taught at Oxford, Warwick, University College London and the London School of Economics. She is the project leader of the Horizon 2020 research project 'Inclusive Science and European Democracy', co-leader of the research programme 'Evidence for Use' at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at LSE, and director of the international research centre 'Trust in Science' at Ca' Foscari.
Matthew Soleiman is a doctoral student in the Department of History and Science Studies program at UC San Diego. He received his master's degree in neuroscience from the University of Washington and his bachelor's degree in psychology from UC San Diego. His research spans the history of the mind and brain sciences, the history of medicine, and science and technology studies. He is currently a PhD Fellow at the Institute for Practical Ethics at UC San Diego.
Ann C. Thresher is a doctoral student at UC San Diego where she works on the philosophy of science, environmental ethics, emerging technologies, and the philosophy of physics. She is a 2022 Heinrich Hertz Fellow at the University of Bonn and was previously a graduate fellow at the Institute for Practical Ethics at UC San Diego. She has spoken at San Diego Comic Con on the physics of time travel, and before pursuing her doctoral degree worked for the London Mathematical Society where she ran their 150th-anniversary celebrations. She holds two bachelor's degrees from the University of Sydney, one in physics and one in philosophy, and grew up in Hobart, Tasmania.
"Nancy Cartwright and her colleagues steer us from the norms of scientific method to the variety of products – and of evidence – that make the tangle of science reliable. I was struck by the scope of the enterprise and the broad applicability of its findings: from a discussion of continuum and particulate models of flow, to explanations for why democracies don't fight one another or public health interventions fail. Lively and engaging, this book will be of interest not only to philosophers, but to both consumers and producers of science, and among both the natural and social science tribes."
– Stephan Haggard, University of California San Diego
"In the late 20th century, academics debunked the myth that science was reliable by virtue of its use of a singular method – "the scientific method" – or because scientists were preternaturally objective and rigorous. But if there is no scientific method, and scientists are fallible humans like the rest of us, then what makes science reliable? In this important book, Nancy Cartwright and her colleagues argue the answer is the ways in which the various practices and products of science – theories, methods, experiments, instruments, classification schemes, habits of data collection, forms of analysis, measuring techniques and more – work together and become mutually constitutive and supportive. Scientific knowledge, they argue, is a product of the interplay of all the ingredients that go into it. A must-read for anyone who cares about how science really works."
– Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University
"Drawing upon a wealth of examples from past and present science, from the physics of temperature to the archaeology of the Dead Sea scrolls, The Tangle of Science makes a strong case that we should replace truth by reliability as the ultimate goal of scientific inquiry. Clearly written and boldly argued, this is a book for everyone who wants to know why we should trust science – and which science to trust."
– Lorraine Daston, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
"The Tangle of Science stands front and center of the wave of exciting new work on the nature of science that puts aside a fixation with narrowly epistemological notions such as confirmation and objectivity to examine without philosophical preconceptions, and in a way that embraces the non-cognitive, technological, and social dimensions of science, how scientists succeed at getting to grips with the world. Its picture of science is refreshing, provocative, and I think largely correct."
– Michael Strevens, New York University