In Praise of Science
In this engaging, lyrical book, physicist Sander Bais shows how science can liberate us from our cultural straitjacket of prejudice and intolerance. We're living in a time in which technology is taken for granted, yet belief in such standard scientific facts as evolution is actually decreasing. How is it possible for cell phones and Creationism to coexist? Science—fundamental, fact-based knowledge, not the latest technological gadget—can give us the global and local perspectives we need to make the world a better place. Bais argues that turning points in the history of science have been accompanied by similar milestones in social change, deeply affecting our view of nature, our perception of the human condition, and our understanding of the universe and our place in it.
After a lively description of how curiosity trumps prejudice and pseudoscience in matters ranging from lightning rods to the transmission of HIV, Bais considers what drives science and scientists, a quest that culminates in that miraculous mixture of creativity and ingenuity found in the greatest scientists. He describes what he calls the "circle of science"—the microcosm and the macrocosm as mirror images—and demonstrates unity in a dazzling sequence of topics, including the hierarchy of structures, the forces of nature, cosmological evolution, and the challenge of complexity. Finally, Bais takes on the obstacles science encounters in a world dominated by short-term political and economic interests. Science, he says, needs to get its message out. Drawing on sources that range from Charles Darwin and Karl Popper to Herbert Marcuse and Richard Feynman, with In Praise of Science, Bais does just that.
Copublished with Amsterdam University Press, The Netherlands
About the Author
Sander Bais is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Amsterdam and External Faculty Member of the Santa Fe Institute. He is the author of The Equations: Icons of Knowledge and Very Special Relativity: An Illustrated Guide.
"I cannot think of a better guide for this wonderful expedition through the world of science than Sander Bais. The traveller is rewarded with splendid overviews, surprising details, historical anecdotes, thoughtful reflections on the future, but most of all with a deep love for science."
Robbert Dijkgraaf, University of Amsterdam, President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
"I greatly enjoyed reading this book. Admirably suited for a large audience, it conveys the grand scope of science as well as its cultural dimensions."
—Dudley Herschbach, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Harvard University
"Science as it really is: A complex social phenomenon that is our only solid way to distinguish true from false, quietly but profoundly transforming human culture, giving an elusive glimpse of the objective beauty of the universe."
Doyne Farmer, Santa Fe Institute