UNDERSTANDING THE PRESENT

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9780385420716: UNDERSTANDING THE PRESENT

A well-known science commentator offers an overview of science that spans from the ancient Greeks to the science of the 1990s, showing how science has led human beings to the brink of disaster.

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About the Author:

Brian Appleyard is a special features writer for The Sunday Times.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A withering indictment of modern science by, of all people, the science-and-philosophy columnist of The Sunday Times of London. Appleyard's blast is ferocious: Science has done ``appalling spiritual damage'' to modern human beings, for it rules the day but ``offers no truth, no guiding light, and no path.'' Enough is enough: ``We must resist and the time to do so is now.'' Appleyard's resistance takes the form, largely, of a history of how science came to be and the havoc it has wreaked. The crisis began in 1609, when Galileo peered through the telescope and ``invented the modern.'' Suddenly, observation and experiment replaced rational authority (exemplified by Aquinas's brilliant synthesis of Aristotle and Christianity) as the bastion of knowledge. This new way of seeing eschewed value and meaning, Appleyard says; it found its philosophy in Cartesian dualism, and its final, tragic expression in Darwinism. Appleyard runs through responses to this alleged debacle, from Nietzsche to Kierkegaard--all noble failures, he contends. Science's internal revolutions, especially quantum physics, may provide new life--but Appleyard doubts it. Nor does he have faith in New Age science (Bohm, Capra, Sheldrake) or the Green movement, which he describes as ``a religion of rejection.'' What, then, to do? Consider that science cannot understand self-consciousness or the soul, he says, although subjective experience indicates that we may possess both. These are clues that science is blinkered, that it poses its own questions and then insists these are the only ones that exist. The answer is to ``humble'' science, to see it as just one ``convention'' of knowing rather than as the royal road to truth. An old argument, but Appleyard attacks scientism with uncanny intelligence and heat (who else has managed to squash hard and New Age science with the same hammer, or has scorned Sagan, Hawking, and other scientific icons in such blistering terms?). This should crack a few test tubes. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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