The One Culture?: A Conversation about Science

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9780226467238: The One Culture?: A Conversation about Science

So far the "Science Wars" have generated far more heat than light. Combatants from one or the other of what C. P. Snow famously called "the two cultures" (science versus the arts and humanities) have launched bitter attacks but have seldom engaged in constructive dialogue about the central issues. In The One Culture?, Jay A. Labinger and Harry Collins have gathered together some of the world's foremost scientists and sociologists of science to exchange opinions and ideas rather than insults. The contributors find surprising areas of broad agreement in a genuine conversation about science, its legitimacy and authority as a means of understanding the world, and whether science studies undermines the practice and findings of science and scientists.

The One Culture? is organized into three parts. The first consists of position papers written by scientists and sociologists of science, which were distributed to all the participants. The second presents commentaries on these papers, drawing out and discussing their central themes and arguments. In the third section, participants respond to these critiques, offering defenses, clarifications, and modifications of their positions.

Who can legitimately speak about science? What is the proper role of scientific knowledge? How should scientists interact with the rest of society in decision making? Because science occupies such a central position in the world today, such questions are vitally important. Although there are no simple solutions, The One Culture? does show the reader exactly what is at stake in the Science Wars, and provides a valuable framework for how to go about seeking the answers we so urgently need.

Contributors include:
Constance K. Barsky, Jean Bricmont, Harry Collins, Peter Dear, Jane
Gregory, Jay A. Labinger, Michael Lynch, N. David Mermin, Steve
Miller, Trevor Pinch, Peter R. Saulson, Steven Shapin, Alan Sokal,
Steven Weinberg, Kenneth G. Wilson

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Review:

Does science have anything to fear from its critics? The reader of the surprisingly clear and straightforward collection The One Culture? A Conversation About Science probably won't think so after absorbing its range of opinions. Not to say that such criticism is toothless, overly narrow, or meaningless outside the academic context--far from it. The editors gathered 15 scientists and sociologists well known for their passionate but civil engagement in the science wars of the 1990s and asked them for position papers, responses, and rebuttals. The result is a valuable contribution to the field of science studies.

The problem of the nature of science, of course, isn't as simple as the pundits would imagine; it's neither a barbarians-at-the-gates assault on a precious institution nor a noble speaking of truth to power. The writers tend to agree with each other far more often than not, and their differences are calmly but firmly dissected. From Allen Sokal, the smart-aleck scientist who hoaxed the cultural studies journal Social Theory, to highly regarded historian of science Peter Dear, the breadth of interest and analysis is staggering. Inevitably, though, the potential reader will worry that such a book will be rendered unreadable by two sets of mutually exclusive jargon. It isn't. Though the ideas and debate will stretch the brains of practically every reader, The One Culture? should provoke no more dictionary trips than any other well-written set of essays. The topic at hand, of vital importance to us all, deserves more light and less heat; fortunately, editors Jay Labinger and H.M. Collins have delivered illumination. --Rob Lightner

From the Inside Flap:

In recent years, combatants from one or the other of what C. P. Snow famously called "the two cultures" (science versus the arts and humanities) have launched bitter attacks but have seldom engaged in constructive dialogue. In The One Culture? Jay A. Labinger and Harry Collins have gathered together some of the world's foremost scientists and sociologists of science to exchange opinions and ideas rather than insults. The contributors find surprising areas of broad agreement in a genuine conversation about science, its legitimacy and authority as a means of understanding the world, and whether science studies undermines the practice and findings of science and scientists.

Who has the right to speak about science? What is the proper role of scientific knowledge? How should scientists interact with the rest of society in decision making? Because science occupies a central position in the world today, such questions are vitally important. Although there are no simple solutions, The One Culture? shows the reader exactly what is at stake in the so-called Science Wars and provides a valuable framework for how to go about seeking the answers we so urgently need.

Contributors include:
Constance K. Barsky, Jean Bricmont, Harry Collins, Peter Dear, Jane
Gregory, Jay A. Labinger, Michael Lynch, N. David Mermin, Steve
Miller, Trevor Pinch, Peter R. Saulson, Steven Shapin, Alan Sokal,
Steven Weinberg, Kenneth G. Wilson

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