A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science

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Cultural critics say that "science is politics by other means," arguing that the results of scientific inquiry are profoundly shaped by the ideological agendas of powerful elites. They base their claims on historical case studies purporting to show the systematic intrusion of sexist, racist, capitalist, colonialist, and/or professional interests into the very content of science. In this hard-hitting collection of essays, contributors offer crisp and detailed critiques of case studies offered by the cultural critics as evidence that scientific results tell us more about social context than they do about the natural world. Pulling no punches, they identify numerous crude factual blunders (e.g. that Newton never performed any experiments) and egregious errors of omission, such as the attempt to explain the slow development of fluid dynamics solely in terms of gender bias. Where there are positive aspects of a flawed account, or something to be learned from it, they do not hesitate to say so. Their target is shoddy scholarship.
Comprising new essays by distinguished scholars of history, philosophy, and science, this book raises a lively debate to a new level of seriousness.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is the latest and most explosive bomb to be launched in the 'science wars.'...Academics on both sides of the debate will need this book. Expect a counterattack."—Library Journal

"A thoughtful, wide-ranging, spirited, and highly informative collection. The sophisticated case for objectivity is fully developed in these expert pages."—Frederick Crews, author of The Memory Wars (1995) and editor of Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend (1998)

Library Journal
This book is the latest and most explosive bomb to be launched in the "science wars." Recently, a cadre of historians and philosophers of science have attempted to deconstruct the scientific process by examining its underlying social metaphors. Many scholars, especially practicing scientists, view these efforts with undisguised disdain. The essays here, which are by scientists and philosophers, debunk postmodernist science studies by exposing their purported biases, errors, and fallacies. Essentially, they deconstruct the deconstructionists. For example, Michael Ruse asks, "Is Darwinism Sexist?" while Alan Sokal tackles "What the Social Text Affair Does and Does Not Approve." Although some olive branches are extended, the overall tone is aggressive. Academics on both sides of the debate will need this book. Expect a counterattack.--Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195117264
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Noretta Koertge is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University.

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Table of Contents

Scrutinizing Science Studies 3
Pt. I The Strange World of Postmodernist Science Studies 7
1 What the Social Text Affair Does and Does Not Prove 9
2 What the Sokal Hoax Ought to Teach Us 23
3 A Plea for Science Studies 32
Pt. II Myths, Metaphors, and Misreadings 57
4 Bashful Eggs, Macho Sperm, and Tonypandy 59
5 An Engineer Dissects Two Case Studies: Hayles on Fluid Mechanics, and MacKenzie on Statistics 71
6 Evidence-Free Forensics and Enemies of Objectivity 99
7 Is Darwinism Sexist? (And if It Is, So What?) 119
Pt. III Interests, Ideology, and the Construction of Experiments 131
8 When Experiments Fail: Is "Cold Fusion" Science as Normal? 133
9 Avoiding the Experimenters' Regress 151
10 Do Mutants Die of Natural Causes? The Case of Atomic Parity Violation 166
11 Latour's Relativity 181
Pt. IV Art, Nature, and the Rise of Experimental Method 193
12 In Defense of Bacon 195
13 Alchemy, Domination, and Gender 216
14 What's Wrong with the Strong Programme's Case Study of the "Hobbes-Boyle" Dispute? 227
15 Reflections on Bruno Latour's Version of the Seventeenth Century 240
Pt. V Civilian Casualties of Postmodern Perspectives on Science 255
16 Postmodernisms and the Problem of Scientific Literacy 257
17 The End of Science, the Central Dogma of Science Studies, Monsieur Jourdain, and Uncle Vanya 272
18 The Epistemic Charity of the Social Constructivist Critics of Science and Why the Third World Should Refuse the Offer 286
Index 313
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