Imperfect Oracle: The Epistemic and Moral Authority of Science

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"Explores the relationships between science and other societal sectors, notably law, religion, government and public culture, in terms of the concepts of expert and moral authority"--Provided by publisher.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This book aims to provide a rich, overarching account of the authority of science in American society. It examines the nature of scientists’ cognitive and moral authority; the historical origins of science; its roles and limits in various spheres of society, including law, the courts, state policy, public culture, and religious life; the sources and conditions of scientific authority; and its conflicts with other sources of authority, such as common sense, religious conviction, and legal practices. Ted Brown makes a very significant contribution to the field of ’science studies.’ He succeeds in synthesizing a diverse set of scholarly insights from the literature in various fields and unifies (or reformulates) them into one powerful account of scientific authority that stands on its own. Imperfect Oracle provides a fresh and engaging perspective. The author creates a bridge between different disciplines by approaching issues like scientific testimony, evidence, and credibility through the work of philosophers, sociologists, public policy scientists, historians, and biographers, among others. The book is exceptionally well written, with clear, concise, lively, and well-balanced prose. The virtue of Imperfect Oracle is that it provides a more comprehensive and synoptic view of scientific authority than is otherwise available.”
—Jerry Doppelt, University of California, San Diego

“The path to intellectual eminence and authority has been peppered with difficulties. There have been breakthroughs and roadblocks, and Brown’s book discusses them in extremely rich detail. His book could become a valuable textbook or resource for a course on science and society.”
—Philip J. Davis, SIAM

“Theodore Brown is the ultimate academic all-rounder.”

—Steve Fuller, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“A very rewarding analysis of the status of science in modern times. . . . Highly recommended.”

—J. W. Dauben, Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271035352
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2009
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Theodore L. Brown is Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Founding Director Emeritus of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois. From 1980 to 1986, he served as Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School there. He is co-author of the best-selling chemistry textbook Chemistry: The Central Science, now in its eleventh edition from Prentice Hall. Besides his scientific research publications, he is also the author of a previous study in the philosophy of science titled Making Truth: Metaphors in Science (2003) as well as Bridging Divides: The Origins of the Beckman Institute at Illinois (2009).

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

I Foundations

1 Authority and Autonomy 19

2 Historical Origins of Scientific Authority 38

3 American Science 67

4 Scientific Authority in Contemporary Society 93

II Science in Society

5 Science and the Courts 125

6 Science and Religion 166

7 Science and Government 208

8 Science and the Public 244

9 The Prospects for Scientific Authority 270

References 295

Index 317

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