Are We All Scientific Experts Now?

Overview

To ordinary people, science used to seem infallible. Scientists were heroes, selflessly pursuing knowledge for the common good. More recently, a series of scientific scandals, frauds and failures have led us to question science’s pre-eminence. Revelations such as Climategate, or debates about the safety of the MMR vaccine, have dented our confidence in science.

In this provocative new book Harry Collins seeks to redeem scientific expertise, and reasserts science’s special ...

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Are We All Scientific Experts Now

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Overview

To ordinary people, science used to seem infallible. Scientists were heroes, selflessly pursuing knowledge for the common good. More recently, a series of scientific scandals, frauds and failures have led us to question science’s pre-eminence. Revelations such as Climategate, or debates about the safety of the MMR vaccine, have dented our confidence in science.

In this provocative new book Harry Collins seeks to redeem scientific expertise, and reasserts science’s special status. Despite the messy realities of day-to-day scientific endeavor, he emphasizes the superior moral qualities of science, dismissing the dubious “default” expertise displayed by many of those outside the scientific community. Science, he argues, should serve as an example to ordinary citizens of how to think and act, and not the other way round.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A valuable contribution to the ways in which we ascribe value to expertise ... Although Collins convincingly answers the book’s title question with a resounding ‘no’, what is most interesting and refreshing about his analysis is that it enables people holding different kinds of expertise to recognise their role in scientific debate."
LSE Review of Books

"Certainly a book for those who are interested in science and its role in society. For those who are curious about how scientists tackle problems and why they do often have the answers, it should prove illuminating."
Times Higher Education

''I read this short book with admiration - an analysis by a social scientist which (unlike much of that genre) should resonate with most actual researchers.''
Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Former President of the Royal Society

''Packed into a slim polemic that succinctly yet movingly distills years of painstaking research into expertise, Harry Collins delivers an immensely rich book— a thorough cultural and intellectual analysis of why attitudes towards towards scientific expertise have changed, and why a new view of them needs to be adopted, to preserve society. Readers who are new to Collins's ideas will find come away with a fresh take on explosive controversies, including Climategate and anti-vaccination campaigns. Long time readers of Collins will be amazed at how accessible his technical arguments are and the big impact that's made by seeing them integrated into a gripping, short-form narrative.''
Evan Selinger, Rochester Institute of Technology

"This brave, thoughtful little book should be sent to every newspaper editor. Collins doesn’t write with Ben Goldacre’s righteous anger, but his careful, nuanced scholarship is just as persuasive."
Seamus O’Mahony, Dublin Review of Books

"Masterful new book."
Mother Jones

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745682044
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 5/27/2014
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 140
  • Sales rank: 627,065
  • Product dimensions: 4.80 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Harry Collins is Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Knowledge, Expertise and Science (KES) at Cardiff University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy. He has written 17 previous books including the well-known Golem series on science. Harry Collins is continuing his research on the nature of scientific knowledge, on the analysis of expertise and on the sociology of gravitational wave detection.

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Table of Contents

Figures and Tables page vi

Introduction: The Growing Crisis of Expertise 1

1 Academics and How the World Feels 17

2 Experts 49

3 Citizen Sceptics 80

4 Citizen Whistle-blowers 103

Conclusion: Are We All Experts Now? 115

Notes 133

Bibliography 138

Index 142

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