Truth Of Science / Edition 1

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Overview

It's not a scientific truth that has come into question lately but the truth--the very notion of scientific truth. Bringing a reasonable voice to the culture wars that have sprung up around this notion, this book offers a clear and constructive response to those who contend, in parodies, polemics and op-ed pieces, that there really is no such thing as verifiable objective truth--without which there could be no such thing as scientific authority.

A distinguished physicist with a rare gift for making the most complicated scientific ideas comprehensible, Roger Newton gives us a guided tour of the intellectual structure of physical science. From there he conducts us through the understanding of reality engendered by modern physics, the most theoretically advanced of the sciences. With its firsthand look at models, facts, and theories, intuition and imagination, the use of analogies and metaphors, the importance of mathematics (and now, computers), and the "virtual" reality of the physics of micro-particles, The Truth of Science truly is a practicing scientist's account of the foundations, processes, and value of science.

To claims that science is a social construction, Newton answers with the working scientist's credo: "A body of assertions is true if it forms a coherent whole and works both in the external world and in our minds." The truth of science, for Newton, is nothing more or less than a relentless questioning of authority combined with a relentless striving for objectivity in the full awareness that the process never ends. With its lucid exposition of the ideals, methods, and goals of science, his book performs a great feat in service of this truth.

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Editorial Reviews

New Scientist

This is an excellent, erudite and interesting book. It portrays science as an extremely productive method and underlines the fact that the prosperity of our world is the fruit of our scientific endeavour. Newton makes you proud to be a scientist. Read this, and pat yourself on the back.
— David Hughes

Times Literary Supplement

Newton offers us fascinating non-technical accounts of many physical theories and an obviously sincere and passionate defence of the standing of his discipline. As he rightly points out, much that is written in the name of social constructivism shows ignorance of and even hostility to science.
— James W. McAllister

Boston Book Review

Much has been written...about the Science Wars. Attacks on science come from many fronts, ranging from postmodern deconstructionists to penny-pinching congressmen to Christian fundamentalists to ordinary citizens who feel confused by conflicting discoveries, intimidated by the difficulty of understanding modern theories, and threatened by a world view that seems to rob their lives of the security and comfort of religion...In The Truth of Science Newton quotes the physicist Percy Bridgman's definition of the scientific method: 'to use your noodle, and no holds barred.' For those who want to pursue a better understanding and appreciation of the world of science, its methods and results, there is no better place to start than this eminently readable work by the distinguished physicist, R. G. Newton.
— Lucy Horwitz

Endeavour

[The Truth of Science] makes very interesting reading for its analysis of how science works. It also provides for the scientist particularly a useful introduction to relativist ideas.
— B.D. Josephson

Physics World

It is, of course, useful for scientists to be reminded that others often have very different views of science and that they should be prepared to talk to them. However, such discussions are often surprisingly difficult, and this book should help scientists to have a reasonable public debate...The author says that his book is intended for anyone with some scientific education...not for professional philosophers or sociologists of science. However, I think it would be useful for both groups. It would help the former to widen their horizons and provide the latter with some professional guidance in language that is not too technical...[One] philosopher who specializes in the history of quantum theory...intends to buy the book—and I hope others like her will do so too.
— Douglas Morrison

New Scientist - David Hughes
This is an excellent, erudite and interesting book. It portrays science as an extremely productive method and underlines the fact that the prosperity of our world is the fruit of our scientific endeavour. Newton makes you proud to be a scientist. Read this, and pat yourself on the back.
Times Literary Supplement - James W. McAllister
Newton offers us fascinating non-technical accounts of many physical theories and an obviously sincere and passionate defence of the standing of his discipline. As he rightly points out, much that is written in the name of social constructivism shows ignorance of and even hostility to science.
Boston Book Review - Lucy Horwitz
Much has been written...about the Science Wars. Attacks on science come from many fronts, ranging from postmodern deconstructionists to penny-pinching congressmen to Christian fundamentalists to ordinary citizens who feel confused by conflicting discoveries, intimidated by the difficulty of understanding modern theories, and threatened by a world view that seems to rob their lives of the security and comfort of religion...In The Truth of Science Newton quotes the physicist Percy Bridgman's definition of the scientific method: 'to use your noodle, and no holds barred.' For those who want to pursue a better understanding and appreciation of the world of science, its methods and results, there is no better place to start than this eminently readable work by the distinguished physicist, R. G. Newton.
Endeavour - B.D. Josephson
[The Truth of Science] makes very interesting reading for its analysis of how science works. It also provides for the scientist particularly a useful introduction to relativist ideas.
Physics World - Douglas Morrison
It is, of course, useful for scientists to be reminded that others often have very different views of science and that they should be prepared to talk to them. However, such discussions are often surprisingly difficult, and this book should help scientists to have a reasonable public debate...The author says that his book is intended for anyone with some scientific education...not for professional philosophers or sociologists of science. However, I think it would be useful for both groups. It would help the former to widen their horizons and provide the latter with some professional guidance in language that is not too technical...[One] philosopher who specializes in the history of quantum theory...intends to buy the book--and I hope others like her will do so too.
Dudley R. Herschbach
A welcome, unpretentious exposition of a physicist's view of how the process of science can lead to reliable results, fantastic as those results often seem to be...its level, length, and lucidity make it accessible to a broad readership that would find most current discussions of scientific epistemology to be tedious, murky, or otherwise unattractive. Newton gives a forthright, sensible response to the 'relativistic social constructionism' that has become remarkably pervasive and strident in many recent books dealing with 'science studies.'
New Scientist
This is an excellent, erudite and interesting book. It portrays science as an extremely productive method and underlines the fact that the prosperity of our world is the fruit of our scientific endeavour. Newton makes you proud to be a scientist. Read this, and pat yourself on the back.
— David Hughes
Times Literary Supplement
Newton offers us fascinating non-technical accounts of many physical theories and an obviously sincere and passionate defence of the standing of his discipline. As he rightly points out, much that is written in the name of social constructivism shows ignorance of and even hostility to science.
— James W. McAllister
Boston Book Review
Much has been written...about the Science Wars. Attacks on science come from many fronts, ranging from postmodern deconstructionists to penny-pinching congressmen to Christian fundamentalists to ordinary citizens who feel confused by conflicting discoveries, intimidated by the difficulty of understanding modern theories, and threatened by a world view that seems to rob their lives of the security and comfort of religion...In The Truth of Science Newton quotes the physicist Percy Bridgman's definition of the scientific method: 'to use your noodle, and no holds barred.' For those who want to pursue a better understanding and appreciation of the world of science, its methods and results, there is no better place to start than this eminently readable work by the distinguished physicist, R. G. Newton.
— Lucy Horwitz
Endeavour
[The Truth of Science] makes very interesting reading for its analysis of how science works. It also provides for the scientist particularly a useful introduction to relativist ideas.
— B.D. Josephson
Physics World
It is, of course, useful for scientists to be reminded that others often have very different views of science and that they should be prepared to talk to them. However, such discussions are often surprisingly difficult, and this book should help scientists to have a reasonable public debate...The author says that his book is intended for anyone with some scientific education...not for professional philosophers or sociologists of science. However, I think it would be useful for both groups. It would help the former to widen their horizons and provide the latter with some professional guidance in language that is not too technical...[One] philosopher who specializes in the history of quantum theory...intends to buy the book--and I hope others like her will do so too.
— Douglas Morrison
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674001817
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 0.58 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger G. Newton is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics at Indiana University.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

Conventions

Science as a Social Construct?

The Aim of Science Is Understanding

Explanatory Devices

The Role of Facts

The Birth and Death of Theories

The Power of Mathematics

Causality, Determinism, and Probability

Reality on Two Scales

Reality at the Submicroscopic Level

Truth and Objectivity

Notes

Further Reading

Bibliography

Index

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