Facing Up

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Overview

The New York Times’s James Glanz has called Steven Weinberg “perhaps the world’s most authoritative proponent of the idea that physics is hurtling toward a ‘final theory,’ a complete explanation of nature’s particles and forces that will endure as the bedrock of all science forevermore. He is also a powerful writer of prose that can illuminate—and sting… He recently received the Lewis Thomas Prize, awarded to the researcher who best embodies ‘the scientist as poet.’” Both the brilliant scientist and the provocative writer are fully present in this book as Weinberg pursues his principal passions, theoretical physics and a deeper understanding of the culture, philosophy, history, and politics of science.
Each of these essays, which span fifteen years, struggles in one way or another with the necessity of facing up to the discovery that the laws of nature are impersonal, with no hint of a special status for human beings. Defending the spirit of science against its cultural adversaries, these essays express a viewpoint that is reductionist, realist, and devoutly secular. Each is preceded by a new introduction that explains its provenance and, if necessary, brings it up to date. Together, they afford the general reader the unique pleasure of experiencing the superb sense, understanding, and knowledge of one of the most interesting and forceful scientific minds of our era.
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Editorial Reviews

Eric J. Chaisson
Steven Weinberg is a national treasure. Not only is he one of America's greatest physicists, he is also a delightful essayist as well. In Facing Up, he addresses the issues of objectivity, reductionism, and the nature of science in rightful ways sure to outrage postmodernists.
Brian Greene
In this wonderful and compelling collection of essays, Steven Weinberg--one of the greatest and most influential of physicists--convincingly argues that the more we discover about the laws governing the cosmos, the less it seems that we have any special status or role to play. While Weinberg may well be right regarding the absence of a divine plan for human beings, you cannot help leaving these finely written essays feeling uplifted by the boundless curiosity and ingenuity of the human spirit.
Booklist - Bryce Christensen
Cogent and lucid, this collection of essays helps general readers understand both why the so-called science wars have aroused such passions within the academy and how these wars have affected sociopolitical events far beyond university campuses.
Times Literary Supplement - Brian Pippard
[Facing Up is] lucidly written as ever, with a gentle humor that does not hide [Weinberg's] strong convictions on science, philosophy and religion. I unreservedly recommend it, not only to scientists but to all who share his beliefs in the contribution that science has made, and will continue to make, to the way we see ourselves and our world.
Choice - M. Schiff
Anyone who has read Weinberg's essays in The New York Review of Books over the years knows that, in addition to being a superb popular expositor of science...the distinguished Nobel Prize physicist has not shied away from polemically treating more controversial matters as well...Weinberg's writing is a joy. Difficult ideas are explained in a language that is learned, unpretentious, elegant, and persuasive all at once--it is the quality of the ideas that comes through, ideas needing no embellishing obfuscation of style. Much, much to be learned here...A valuable, important book. Highly recommended.
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences - Vittorio Sgaramella
People interested in the role of science and technology in our culture and everyday life, and in its preservation and strengthening, will find stimulating arguments to compare to their viewpoints. I have found a reassuring confidence on the universal standing of science in the shaping of human culture and also an amusing unifying thread in the fortuitous fact that [these] books share the rejection of intellectual smokiness as enacted in the famous Sokal's hoax, a must in any humanity and science curricula of university classes all over the world.
Nature - John Polkinghorne
Weinberg writes well and his clear style and strong opinions hold the reader's attention. He says he has "a taste for controversy", and this punchy and provocative writing certainly bears this out...This is an interesting book, with a lot to question and (I believe) disagree with, but is well worth reading.
Physics World - John Ellis
Steven Weinberg inhabits a bleak world infested with adversaries that he is impelled to combat. He faces up to them with scientific rigour and lawyerly precision, as readers of this fascinating book of essays will discover with pleasure...Weinberg is a noble warrior in the science wars...Read this book.
Choice

Anyone who has read Weinberg's essays in The New York Review of Books over the years knows that, in addition to being a superb popular expositor of science...the distinguished Nobel Prize physicist has not shied away from polemically treating more controversial matters as well...Weinberg's writing is a joy. Difficult ideas are explained in a language that is learned, unpretentious, elegant, and persuasive all at once—it is the quality of the ideas that comes through, ideas needing no embellishing obfuscation of style. Much, much to be learned here...A valuable, important book. Highly recommended.
— M. Schiff

Nature

Weinberg writes well and his clear style and strong opinions hold the reader's attention. He says he has "a taste for controversy", and this punchy and provocative writing certainly bears this out...This is an interesting book, with a lot to question and (I believe) disagree with, but is well worth reading.
— John Polkinghorne

Booklist

Cogent and lucid, this collection of essays helps general readers understand both why the so-called science wars have aroused such passions within the academy and how these wars have affected sociopolitical events far beyond university campuses.
— Bryce Christensen

The Economist
The essays in Facing Up are illuminating and entertaining. They range across many subjects where Mr. Weinberg has points to make or turf to defend. There are excursions into quantum physics, cosmology, the history of science, and science's relationships with politics and religion.
Times Literary Supplement

[Facing Up is] lucidly written as ever, with a gentle humor that does not hide [Weinberg's] strong convictions on science, philosophy and religion. I unreservedly recommend it, not only to scientists but to all who share his beliefs in the contribution that science has made, and will continue to make, to the way we see ourselves and our world.
— Brian Pippard

Physics World

Steven Weinberg inhabits a bleak world infested with adversaries that he is impelled to combat. He faces up to them with scientific rigour and lawyerly precision, as readers of this fascinating book of essays will discover with pleasure...Weinberg is a noble warrior in the science wars...Read this book.
— John Ellis

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

People interested in the role of science and technology in our culture and everyday life, and in its preservation and strengthening, will find stimulating arguments to compare to their viewpoints. I have found a reassuring confidence on the universal standing of science in the shaping of human culture and also an amusing unifying thread in the fortuitous fact that [these] books share the rejection of intellectual smokiness as enacted in the famous Sokal's hoax, a must in any humanity and science curricula of university classes all over the world.
— Vittorio Sgaramella

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674011205
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 300
  • Sales rank: 1,011,816
  • Product dimensions: 0.63 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Weinberg is Josey-Welch Foundation Chair in Science and Regental Professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and is the author of many books. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 and the National Medal of Science in 1991.
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Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1. Science as a Liberal Art
  • 2. Newtonianism, Reductionism, and the Art of Congressional Testimony
  • 3. Newton’s Dream
  • 4. Confronting O’Brien
  • 5. The Heritage of Galileo
  • 6. Nature Itself
  • 7. The Boundaries of Scientific Knowledge
  • 8. The Methods of Science…and Those by Which We Live
  • 9. Night Thoughts of a Quantum Physicist
  • 10. Reductionism Redux
  • 11. Physics and History
  • 12. Sokal’s Hoax
  • 13. Science and Sokal’s Hoax: An Exchange
  • 14. Before the Big Bang
  • 15. Zionism and Its Adversaries
  • 16. The Red Camaro
  • 17. The Non-Revolution of Thomas Kuhn
  • 18. T.S. Kuhn’s Non-Revolution: An Exchange
  • 19. The Great Reduction: Physics in the Twentieth Century
  • 20. A Designer Universe?
  • 21. “A Designer Universe?”: An Exchange
  • 22. Five and a Half Utopias
  • 23. Looking for Peace in the Science Wars
  • Sources
  • Index

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