The Why of Things: Causality in Science, Medicine, and Life

The Why of Things: Causality in Science, Medicine, and Life

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by Peter V. Rabins
     
 

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Why was there a meltdown at the Fukushima power plant? Why do some people get cancer and not others? Why is global warming happening? Why does one person get depressed in the face of life's vicissitudes while another finds resilience?

Questions like these—questions of causality—form the basis of modern scientific inquiry, posing profound intellectual

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Overview

Why was there a meltdown at the Fukushima power plant? Why do some people get cancer and not others? Why is global warming happening? Why does one person get depressed in the face of life's vicissitudes while another finds resilience?

Questions like these—questions of causality—form the basis of modern scientific inquiry, posing profound intellectual and methodological challenges for researchers in the physical, natural, biomedical, and social sciences. In this groundbreaking book, noted psychiatrist and author Peter Rabins offers a conceptual framework for analyzing daunting questions of causality. Navigating a lively intellectual voyage between the shoals of strict reductionism and relativism, Rabins maps a three-facet model of causality and applies it to a variety of questions in science, medicine, economics, and more.

Throughout this book, Rabins situates his argument within relevant scientific contexts, such as quantum mechanics, cybernetics, chaos theory, and epigenetics. A renowned communicator of complex concepts and scientific ideas, Rabins helps readers stretch their minds beyond the realm of popular literary tipping points, blinks, and freakonomic explanations of the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Simon Levin
Peter Rabins shows incredible breadth of knowledge and his thesis—that there are three distinct approaches to causation, appropriate for different types of questions—is compelling. His writing is engaging, and the subject matter is deeply relevant.

David Reuben
Peter Rabin's book draws upon science, statistics, philosophy, and religion to stretch readers' thinking about the 'why' and 'how' of what happens. It provides a remarkably lucid synthesis of diverse ideas about causality based on superb scholarship and is always entertaining. I heartily recommend it.

Stuart Firestein
From the two year old child's endlessly nested 'why' questions to the Old Testament and the modern scientist, and through many philosophers in between, Peter Rabins takes us on a fascinating quest in search of answers to that seemingly simplest of all questions: Why? Simple but enigmatic because, like the two year old, how do we know when to be satisfied and how do we know when we know? Throughout The Why of Things, Rabins examines fundamental aspects of how we know—or don't. In his erudite yet accessible book, readers will learn everything from philosophical categorization to nonlinear dynamics in a way that will suddenly make sense, even if they never do find out exactly why.

Lifelong Dewey Blog
if you're looking to learn how to better reason things out through logic and comparative analysis, then this one may be for you.

The Garden Window Blog
Quite simply, wow. This is one of the most complex, mind-boggling and ultimately satisfying books I have read in a very long time.

Metascience
A most enjoyable read and source of inspiration. The book constitutes a noteworthy addition to Professor Rabins' academic production… Philosophers of science – and perhaps more specifically philosophers interested in causality, explanation, or medicine – would gain a lot in reading it.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231164726
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
08/20/2013
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Peter Rabins is the Richman Family Professor for Alzheimer's and Related Diseases and director of the Geriatric Psychiatry program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Johns Hopkins Berman Bioethics Institute. He is the author or editor of eight books and coauthor of the landmark title The Thirty-Six-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life.

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The Why of Things: Causality in Science, Medicine, and Life 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
JohnVWylie-MD More than 1 year ago
This book is exactly what I have been searching for. I am a psychiatrist, who was brought up on the great psychiatric thinkers of the 20th Century. Since the “decade of the brain” starting in 1990, psychiatry has turned exclusively to brain science. What Dr. Rabins calls “narrative truth: the empathetic method,” on which psychoanalytic theory is based, is now all but ignored. However, brain science is in its infancy and no biological mechanisms for any mental illnesses are in sight. Dr. Rabins gives us a very timely reminder that empirical knowledge is but one of several time-tested avenues to the truth. In rigorous but crystal clear prose, he describes a three facet approach to determining the “why of things,” including, “cause in the ecclesiastic tradition.” This book is a must for anyone feeling oppressed from seeking a wider scope of knowledge by the restrictions imposed by the small corner of reality circumscribed by experimental science.