How Scientists Explain Disease / Edition 1

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Overview

"This is a wonderful book! In How Scientists Explain Disease, Paul Thagard offers us a delightful essay combining science, its history, philosophy, and sociology. Choosing as a case study the discovery that ulcers can be caused by bacteria and not simply by stress, Thagard takes us right into the heart of science and medicine, showing in a fascinating and illuminating way how scientists think, why they like ideas and (even more) why they might set up really strong objections to something which posterity judges a major advance. . . . It has been a long time since I read a book as important as this, and more importantly, it has been a long time since I read a scholarly book which gave me such simple pleasure."--Michael Ruse, University of Guelph, author of Monad to Man

"Thagard's model of the growth of scientific knowledge complements and extends current work while skillfully advancing a new account of knowledge growth. His literary style makes the arguments clear and accessible."--William C. Summers, Yale University

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Editorial Reviews

The Times Higher Education Supplement - Charles Bangham
This book is remarkable for its clarity and its lack of doctrine. At each stage, Thagard outlines in plain terms precisely what he is trying to explain, and illustrates his explanation . . . It is precisely this even-handed and commonsense approach that allows him to give an accurate portrayal of what scientific advance is like. If this is what philosophers can do for science and medicine, we need more help from them.
Journal of the History of Medicine - K. Codell Carter
An engaging look at contemporary medical science.
British Medical Journal - Julia Lowe
For anyone who has practised medicine long enough to wonder how and why some theories become fashionable and others fail to thrive, this book will make an interesting read. Paul Thagard finds both the traditional view of science as logic and the postmodern view of science as power inadequate for understanding how science develops.
Philosophy of Science - Lindley Darden
This clear and easy to read book is suitable for the general public and students, as well as professional philosophers of science. . . . The general reader will appreciate introductions to the logical, cognitive, and sociological approaches to the study of science. . . . Useful summaries at the end of each chapter allow a quick read of main points.
From the Publisher

"Thagard . . . presents a detailed structure for the scientific understanding of disease. . . . [A] valuable work. . . . Recommended."--Library Journal

"This book is remarkable for its clarity and its lack of doctrine. At each stage, Thagard outlines in plain terms precisely what he is trying to explain, and illustrates his explanation . . . It is precisely this even-handed and commonsense approach that allows him to give an accurate portrayal of what scientific advance is like. If this is what philosophers can do for science and medicine, we need more help from them."--Charles Bangham, The Times Higher Education Supplement

"An engaging look at contemporary medical science."--K. Codell Carter, Journal of the History of Medicine

"For anyone who has practised medicine long enough to wonder how and why some theories become fashionable and others fail to thrive, this book will make an interesting read. Paul Thagard finds both the traditional view of science as logic and the postmodern view of science as power inadequate for understanding how science develops."--Julia Lowe, British Medical Journal

"This clear and easy to read book is suitable for the general public and students, as well as professional philosophers of science. . . . The general reader will appreciate introductions to the logical, cognitive, and sociological approaches to the study of science. . . . Useful summaries at the end of each chapter allow a quick read of main points."--Lindley Darden, Philosophy of Science

Journal of the History of Medicine
An engaging look at contemporary medical science.
— K. Codell Carter
British Medical Journal
For anyone who has practised medicine long enough to wonder how and why some theories become fashionable and others fail to thrive, this book will make an interesting read. Paul Thagard finds both the traditional view of science as logic and the postmodern view of science as power inadequate for understanding how science develops.
— Julia Lowe
Philosophy of Science
This clear and easy to read book is suitable for the general public and students, as well as professional philosophers of science. . . . The general reader will appreciate introductions to the logical, cognitive, and sociological approaches to the study of science. . . . Useful summaries at the end of each chapter allow a quick read of main points.
— Lindley Darden
The Times Higher Education Supplement
This book is remarkable for its clarity and its lack of doctrine. At each stage, Thagard outlines in plain terms precisely what he is trying to explain, and illustrates his explanation . . . It is precisely this even-handed and commonsense approach that allows him to give an accurate portrayal of what scientific advance is like. If this is what philosophers can do for science and medicine, we need more help from them.
— Charles Bangham
Library Journal
Thagard philosophy, Univ. of Waterloo, Ontario; Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science, MIT, 1996 presents a detailed structure for the scientific understanding of disease built on social, philosophical, and logical constructs. After an overview of the scientific process, he provides a detailed case study of how the theory that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori causes peptic ulcers gained acceptance. He then looks at the social aspects of scientific understanding and reviews the collaborative process of current scientific research, consensus building, and even the validity of information on the Internet. This valuable work is directed at students, scholars, and educated lay readers. Recommended for university and large college libraries.--Eric D. Albright, Duke Medical Ctr. Lib., Durham, NC Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Using the recent discovery of as a case study, Thagard (philosophy and cognitive science, U. of Waterloo, Canada) analyzes how disease mechanisms are discovered, explained, and accepted. He focuses on mind, society, and experiment as equally important factors in the development of new theories. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A laborious examination of the evolution of the bacterial theory of peptic ulcers, pointing more generally to how scientific theories evolve. Thagard (Philosophy/Univ. Of Waterloo, Canada) begins by arguing against a traditional view of scientists as individuals conducting objective experiments with no presupposed outcome. The "postmodern view" of scientists trying to prove a hypothesis that will be most beneficial to them ("largely a matter of politics") is similarly too simplistic. Thagard interlaces general arguments about the nature of scientists and scientific research with specific details of several scientific theories, such as headline-provoking conditions like "mad cow" disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. In the meat of the book, the author discusses diseases such as scurvy and his benchmark case, the bacterial theory of ulcers. The history of this theory is elaborated in some detail—we learn, among other things, that one of the reseachers swallowed a live culture of the bacteria to prove his point. Thagard's general discussions of scientific research schemas include many flow-chart-like diagrams that demonstrate possible cause-and-effect relationships, such as how social and psychological explanations of science relate to the science itself. The book tries too hard to explain itself, plodding through each theory step by step, even giving some arguments in outline form. This poor writing tends to obfuscate matters rather than simplify them. Thagard's treatment of complex equations showing causal probabilities, for example, concludes with the obtuse statement that "causal reasoning requires the abductive inference that a factor has the power to produce an effect." Oncedeciphered, this is hardly a profound point. At its best, an engaging description of mysterious diseases past and present, but the book gets bogged down in flow charts, outlines, and equations that will leave the casual reader more frustrated than enlightened. (33 illustrations, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691050836
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/10/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 268
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Preface
Acknowledgments
Pt. 1 Explanations 1
Ch. 1 Explaining Science 3
Ch. 2 Explaining Disease 20
Pt. 2 The Bacterial Theory of Peptic Ulcers 37
Ch. 3 Ulcers and Bacteria: Discovery 39
Ch. 4 Ulcers and Bacteria: Acceptance 56
Ch. 5 Ulcers and Bacteria: Instruments and Experiments 71
Ch. 6 Ulcers and Bacteria: Social Interactions 84
Pt. 3 Cognitive Processes 99
Ch. 7 Causes, Correlations, and Mechanisms 101
Ch. 8 Discovering Causes: Scurvy, Mad Cow Disease, AIDS, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 118
Ch. 9 Medical Analogies 135
Ch. 10 Diseases, Germs, and Conceptual Change 148
Pt. 4 Social Processes 165
Ch. 11 Collaborative Knowledge 167
Ch. 12 Medical Consensus 185
Ch. 13 Science and Medicine on the Internet 199
Pt. 5 Conclusion 217
Ch. 14 Science as a Complex System 219
References 243
Index 259
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