The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answersby Curtis White
With the rise of religion critics such as Richard Dawkins, and of pseudo-science/i>
One of our most brilliant social critics—author of the bestselling The Middle Mind—presents a scathing critique of the “delusions” of science alongside a rousing defense of the tradition of Romanticism and the “big” questions.
With the rise of religion critics such as Richard Dawkins, and of pseudo-science advocates such as Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer, you’re likely to become a subject of ridicule if you wonder “Why is there something instead of nothing?” or “What is our purpose on earth?” Instead, at universities around the world, and in the general cultural milieu, we’re all being taught that science can resolve all questions without the help of philosophy, politics, or the humanities.
In short, the rich philosophical debates of the 19th century have been nearly totally abandoned, argues critic Curtis White. An atheist himself, White nonetheless calls this new turn “scientism”—and fears what it will do to our culture if allowed to flourish without challenge. In fact, in “scientism” White sees a new religion with many unexamined assumptions.
In this brilliant multi-part critique, he aims at a TED talk by a distinguished neuroscientist in which we are told that human thought is merely the product of our “connectome,” a map of neural connections in the brain that is yet to be fully understood. . . . He whips a widely respected physicist who argues that our new understanding of the origins of the universe obviates any philosophical inquiry . . . and ends with a learned defense of the tradition of Romanticism, which White believes our technology and science-obsessed world desperately needs to rediscover.
It’s the only way, he argues, that we can see our world clearly. . . and change it.
—New York Times Book Review
“[White's] brisk takedowns of Hitchens, Hawking, Krauss, Lehrer and others are sharp and necessary, wielding elementary logic against figures who should know better. [White shows] just how easily good science can shade into the self-aggrandizing ideology of scientism.”
—Mark Kingwell, Globe and Mail
“There’s certainly a very real need to march on that citadel, because the idea that there can be only one kind of truth has to be deeply damaging to the intellectual development of a culture.”
—Mark O’Connell, Slate
“An important and necessary book.”
—Philadelphia Review of Books
“Thoroughly well researched and astutely put… An essential read.”
“White’s prose is fluid and often enjoyable… White clearly knows his stuff when it comes to classic literature, and offers an interesting sidebar on the development of Romanticism.”
“A bracing and necessary critique by an able arguer.”
—Toronto Star, Books of Note
“A highly readable yet powerful defense of the importance of the humanities against those who believe science to be the last interpretative framework standing. It is destined to become a classic among artists, dreamers, revolutionaries, and anyone who, like Kierkegaard, believes asking questions to be as important a quest as finding answers.”
“An enjoyable and worthwhile read."
—Christian Research Journal
“A witty critique of scientific overreach that celebrates the totality of human achievement.”
Praise for Curtis White and The Middle Mind
“Cogent, acute, beautiful, merciless, and true.” —David Foster Wallace
“Re-visioning the world takes brawling muscle and a sneer. Curtis White gots that.” —Andrei Codrescu
“The most inspiringly wicked social critic of the moment . . . White exalts the subversive pleasures of the imagination, not simply as a tactic for individual psychic survival, but also as a spark for collective engagement.” —Will Blythe
“Curtis White writes out of an admirable intellectual sophistication combined with viscerality, pain, and humor.” —John Barth
“A master of bewitchments, parodies, and dazzling tropes.” —Paul Auster
“Not the least pleasure in reading the book resides in the refreshing malevolent irony that transpires from every page. Absolutely indispensable.” —Slavoj iek
- Melville House Publishing
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- Penguin Random House Publisher Services
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- 2 MB
Meet the Author
CURTIS WHITE is the author of the novels Memories of My Father Watching TV and Requiem. A widely acclaimed essayist, he has had work appear in Harper’s Magazine, Context, Lapham’s Quarterly, Orion, and Playboy. His book The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves was an international bestseller in 2003.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I am still reading this book and enjoying it much. So far, this has not been too technical from philosophical point of view. He does do a pretty good job of explaining how the anti-religious are basically appealing to a religious basis for their brand of scientism. And White goes on to show that this so-called new atheism is not only anti-religious but anti-humanities. The new atheism is attempting to hijack humanities appreciation of humanity. Other review have said White rambles. I don't think so, unless repeating oneself in different ways is rambling. I think it helps for getting the point made. What is most beneficial is that White recognizes that appeals to science are not appeals to the most holy grail of truth. There is value in being alive beyond a biological yearning expressed in the imaginations of culture. If there is not, then placing so-called science as the supreme value is itself a contradiction. This is easily recognized in philosophical cirlces. But when you have some emotively deprived scientist dismiss philosophy as passe (see chap 1) there is a complete dismissal of seeking truth. The problem with science as a religion is that personhood is only treated in the third person, as a thing, as perhaps a necessary evolutionary survival illusion. Real meaning and value, even though conceptually possible are simply necessary figments of the human imagination. White does well in attacking this position.
I loved it. More than just a critique of writers like Dawkins or Lehrer, this book points toward the alienation of the Romantics as a way forward. I passed my copy around once I was through.