Science and Sensibility: The Elegant Logic of the Universe

ISBN: 1591021383
ISBN 13: 9781591021384
By: Keith J. Laidler

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About this book

Science has produced the vast information explosion that barrages us daily with data both trivial and profound. Though people seem eager to acquire more and more information, few understand what to do with it or how to integrate it into a coherent worldview. Paradoxically, as information has increased, knowledge has declined.This book is designed to provide a thorough grounding in science literacy for the general lay reader. Acclaimed science writer and chemistry professor Keith J. Laidler reviews the major contributions of the different branches of science - including biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geology - and shows how they all lead to a unified conception of our place in the universe. He further asserts that by lifting the great veil of mystery through science, we can more fully appreciate the beauty of the universe. Although much still remains to be discovered, Laidler stresses that evidence from every field of science supports a consensus view, an elegantly logical and self-consistent picture of the formation and development of the universe and of life within it.Even more important than understanding the basic features of this scientific worldview is knowing the method by which science arrives at its conclusions. He points out that this approach to ascertaining the truth is used by judges in courts of law and by scholars in academic fields of the humanities, as well as by scientists. By learning to weigh sound evidence in an objective and unbiased fashion, we can selectively judge the information that surrounds us and integrate it into a scientific understanding, while still retaining our sense of wonder.This elegantly written and lucid explanation of science in contemporary life will not only spark an interest into the wonders of many fascinating scientific disciplines but will stimulate readers to think more critically and scientifically.

Reader's Thoughts

Ryan Marquardt

Overall, this is a pretty poorly done forray into the realm of larger societal issues from a physical/descriptive scientist. The first part of the book isn't bad. It's a ~100 page recap of how we know what we know about physics, biology, astronomy and geology. It's what I imagine Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" to be, except less entertaining. The first part puts forth a good showing for why rational scientific thought is the best approach to problems. It has explained a vast amount of things about our world and universe that were unknown or poorly understood until realtivly recently.It uses that credibility as a springboard to recommend the rational scientific method to be THE way to decide all issues in our society. I started to get turned off by the suggestion that nuclear power is really the cat's meow when it comes to solving our energy problems, and anyone who disagrees just doesn't understand science. I don't disagree that nuclear power gets an unecessarily bad rap, and probably should be a larger slice of our energy portfolio. But his dismissal of anyone that rasies questions about how the uranium is mined, the proetection of the resulting plutonium from peole seeking to build weapons, and the disposition of spent material is patronizing. It shows that the author is at best overly optimistic about the ability of science to solve problems, or at worst is horribly naive about adressing very real issues that matter to many very rational people.The author's ideal that rational scientifc thought and study is a panacea is blow'd up by the fact that many scientists disagree about things ranging from science itself to policy decisions based on science. More than a few good scientists, for example, do not think that nuclear energy is a great and safe solution. It is true that science may not be consulted enough in policy matters (I'm looking at you, George W.), but it is not the only factor in making decisions in our soceity, and even if it were, it often does not consistent in providing one clear direction for what ought to be done.His chapter on religion and molrality is interesting, but doesn't really break new ground. Unsurprisingly, he has atheist leanings, as a god is not required to explain the universe when science has already shown how things work. The discussion of why people act morally in the absence of a religious framework is good food for thought. I agree that these people are an interesting set of the population, and usually people that I like to associate with.In the end, there are some interesting points, such as how we know what we know, the debate about what role science should play in policy, and the larger moral and religious items in our world. Overall, the author's analysis is not detailed or nuanced. It doesn't appear that he comprehends the details of politics and policy making. Because of this, he isn't able to articualte specifically what is wrong policy making or how he would go about changing it (aside from just being more rational).

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