Crease (The Quantum Moment), chair of the philosophy department at Stony Brook University, here makes the work of important thinkers both accessible and relevant. In profiling various people concerned in some way with the nature of scientific authority, Crease aspires to help advocates for evidence-based decision making more meaningfully and effectively address climate-change deniers, who “are exploiting real vulnerabilities in science itself”—namely, that it is intellectually abstract, necessarily uncertain, and opaque to outsiders. Crease begins with Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, and René Descartes, to show how science first challenged religious and political authority. He moves on to Giambattista Vico, Mary Shelley, and Auguste Comte to explore the limits to scientific authority in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and then to Max Weber, Kemal Atatürk, and Edmund Husserl, in the later 19th and 20th centuries, to trace the relationship between the scientific community—the “workshop”—and the outside world. The concluding chapter pulls insights from the writings of Hannah Arendt into the nature of authority and authoritarianism, and into maintaining a public space open to serious intellectual discussion. The result is a masterpiece that explains sophisticated concepts without shortchanging them, and demonstrates “why the dwindling authority of science” threatens human life. (Mar.)
"Rather than hard-sell current scientific claims to those unlikely to listen, Crease enhances the cultural ‘authority of the workshop’ by showing how science becomes authoritative in the first place. His unique combination of talents and expertise is a benefit to us all."
"An eloquent, timely account of what went right and what wrong in modernity when it comes to the ways in which scientific discoveries and theories were received by contemporaries. In lively recountings of telling episodes, Crease discusses a rich array of figures ranging from Francis Bacon and Galileo to Edmund Husserl and Hannah Arendt. He demonstrates how earlier forms of casting doubt on the authority of scientific findings offer clues to contemporary ways by which this authority is put in question. Speaking forcefully to the present moment, Crease spells out a series of concrete and efficacious steps by which science denial can be addressed and combated in our own time."
"How to get angry the right waythat is the question motivating Robert Crease’s magisterial account of ten of history’s smartest men and women on the verge of making the world a better place. These brilliant, ambitious, sometimes oddball and often self-destructive thinkers, encountered obstacles the likes of which we are seeing today, as techno-scientific utopias turn into dystopias, irrationality thrives, and science denial grows. Through the lives and thoughts of these indispensable apostles of truth, Crease offers readers a profound meditation about the breaking point of modern civilization."
"We live in a frightening time of assault on the notion of ‘truth’ and authority. Crease’s historical account of the relationship between the public and the expert sheds important light on our current plight."
"Science is under assault. Crease’s vital new book explains how science acquired its authority, how that authority has benefited us alland how the seeds of attack came from within science itself. Pulling off such an ambitious enterprise requires the training of a philosopher, the precision of a scientist, and the storytelling chops of a great biographer. Crease has them all."
"In this urgent book, Crease shows that there is nothing obvious or inevitable about the social reception of science. Beautifully and clearly written, it is required reading for anyone who cares about the role of science in society."
A timely, sophisticated analysis of the plague of science denial, and possible correctives, via an examination of the ideas of 10 profound thinkers.
Crease (Chair, Philosophy/Stony Brook Univ.; World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement, 2011, etc.) explores the work of individuals who "confronted severe problems with scientific authority in their time, reacted with different forms of anger, and took action. Some risked their lives. Taken together, their stories show why the dwindling authority of science is…threatening to human life." He finds that the vulnerabilities of science authority, at least in the eyes of detractors, derive from its own strengths. Crease deciphers the precepts of famous historical figures—Francis Bacon, Galileo, René Descartes, Mary Shelley, Max Weber, and Hannah Arendt—as well as well-known but noted intellectuals (Edmund Husserl, Auguste Comte, Giambattista Vico) to reveal how the modern scientific apparatus emerged, took shape, overcame resistance, and developed a once-pervasive authority. This author not only challenged—and still challenges—prevailing power structures and modes of thought, but also presented a philosophical quandary: how to reconcile scientific abstractions with the nonscientist's experiential grasp of the world. Crease, also a columnist for Physics World, is not simply a successful science popularizer, but also a perceptive critic, which is not to say he does not allow his political and ecological convictions to enter the equation, especially when it comes to science denial among opportunistic politicians. Given the range and complexity of the subject, the author has taken on a herculean task and executed it deftly. The narrative is stimulating, morally aware, and imbued with obvious respect for the men and women whose ideas the author plumbs. Refreshingly, Crease brings the same intellectual honesty to dissecting their flaws and mistakes as he does to appreciating their triumphs.
Crease conveys in unambiguous terms the perils science denial presents to contemporary society and the importance of restoring the reputation of science as integral to a vibrant and enduring human culture.
Crease (philosophy, Stony Brook Univ.; Second Creation) shows how science has developed and been understood in relationship to the humanities and later social sciences. In particular, the author explores how science's characteristics of communal effort, abstraction, and advancing based seeking additional or confirmatory evidence has left it vulnerable to science deniers who have stripped science as a domain with any authority in the realm of politics and human affairs. Crease traces the rise and decline of scientific authority through three stages and ten influential individuals: Francis Bacon, Galileo, and René Descartes who navigate science's relationship with divine and secular authorities; Giambattista Vico, Mary Shelley, and Auguste Comte who delineate the boundaries between science and the humanistic values; and the rise of science as a social and political force in the works of Max Weber, Kemal Ataturk, and Edmund Husserl. Ultimately, Crease proposes Hannah Arendt's writings on truth and totalitarianism as giving the most useful commentary on our present situation in which the scientific establishment is distrusted, ignored, or ridiculed as a source for furthering human progress or preventing our destruction. VERDICT Readers frustrated with public figures who discount science will benefit from this philosophical work, especially the strategies proposed in the conclusion.—Wade Lee-Smith, Univ. of Toledo Lib.