Icon Books (UK), Totem Books (USA). 2002 (ISBN 1-84046-358-9)
Written by Ziauddin Sardar, Illustrated / designed by Borin Van Loon
Our world is inconceivable without science. Its discoveries benefit us -
antibiotics, computers, space travel, gene mapping - and reveal the secrets
of human evolution, the cosmos and our place in it. Science also threatens
us with the risks of nuclear holocaust, eugenics and the pollution of our
ecosystem. How do we reconcile the advantages of science with its perils?
What do scientists actually do? Is science 'value free'? How has science
evolved and where is it leading us?
Introducing Science explores these troubling questions. It reveals
how science itself and our approach to studying science have changed radically
over the last few decades. The development of Science Studies is traced
from its origin in the ideas of Thomas Kuhn, Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend
and others. Sociological, feminist and postcolonial criticisms reveal that
uncertainty and ignorance tend to increase with changes in the production
of knowledge. We have arrived at the threshold of post-normal science.
With this book I was determined to resist the temptation to incorporate
too many bleeds and sweeping double spreads (I'm never sure that perfect
bound books are appropriate for double spreads anyway: the physical and
pychological gutter breaks the book into separate pages.) I've always maximised
the picture sizes and this sometimes over-cramps the text (particularly
with late rewrites by the author!), so I wanted the graphical elements to
breathe. To this end I introduced a continuing motif throughout the book.
Wherever a title occurs I placed an engraving of a piece of archaic scientific
paraphernalia, some quite large. This ensured that pages didn't become overly
The Dodo: proof that 'Man' doesn't always recognize his responsibility
for maintaining and preserving 'the integrity of the abode of his terrestrial
Karl Popper: one of the most innovative post-war philosophers of
science and a great set of cheekbones.
This book probes into the very nature of science in different aspect:
the feminist science; Third world science; Post-colonial science etc. (http://zerosbook.org)
"Until quite recently..." we are told " ... Scientists
were regarded as quasi-religious supermen, heroically battling against
all odds to discover the truth." Ziauddin Sardar and Borin Van Loon
purport to save us from this delusion in their book "Introducing Science".
They present the view of science from a select group of historians, sociologists,
anthropologists, philosophers and feminists, operating under the banner
of "Science Studies" and "the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge",
who bring us an understanding of how science works in practice. The views
of scientists themselves are summarily dismissed, they having misunderstood
their domain in many important ways.
The book begins by describing the portrayal of scientists in cinema and
newspapers highlighting the lack trust of scientists amongst the public.
The growth of science studies is charted from its radical origins in the
1960's, to its expansion to a discipline in its own right. The aim being
to examine the "in-built gender and racial biases" and to open
the practice of science "to democratic accountability." A very
short history of western science follows. The considerable contribution
to science made in Arab and non-western cultures is not mentioned. The change
in philosophical conceptions of science is examined, from positivism, Karl
Poppers "falsifiability" theory and Thomas Kuhn's "paradigms"
through to the radical ideas of Paul Feyerbend for whom "science has
no claims to superiority over other systems of thought such as religion
and magic." The views of feminist and non-western critics are also
presented. Various sociological views are examined ending with the famous
hoax paper by Sokal, a professor of physics, revealing the "anything
goes" motto of postmodern criticism.
The book ends with a focus on the problems of commercial funding and public
accountability of science. The funding, limiting constraints due to tradition,
and accountability of the science studies brigade is not examined. In the
end a disturbing prognosis for science is predicted unless the general public
is empowered to control and participate in the science process.
The title "Introduction to Science" is misleading. Indeed a definition
of science is not even attempted as it is "...anything but easy to
define." The book is concerned with the subject of science studies
and would be a valuable introduction to readers and science practitioners
interested in the origins of postmodern critical perceptions of science.
The cartoon format limits the text to a sequence of soundbites. Nevertheless
the key elements and ideas are effectively conveyed. For readers interested
in the process of science itself, the book "The Trouble with Science"
by Robin Dunbar, is recommended instead.
Reviewer: paragvyas from London United Kingdom (17 July, 2002)
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