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Fb2 Mystery of Mysteries : Is Evolution a Social Construction ePub

by Michael Ruse

Category: Biological Sciences
Subcategory: Science books
Author: Michael Ruse
ISBN: 067446706X
ISBN13: 978-0674467064
Language: English
Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (April 30, 1999)
Pages: 320
Fb2 eBook: 1275 kb
ePub eBook: 1981 kb
Digital formats: lit lrf doc azw

The structure of the book consists of a series of dichotomies used to highlight the different ways science is approached and practiced, contrasting how cultural and epistemic values play a role in evolutionary science.

The structure of the book consists of a series of dichotomies used to highlight the different ways science is approached and practiced, contrasting how cultural and epistemic values play a role in evolutionary science. Ruse starts with the contrasting philosophical frameworks of Thomas Kuhn (. cultural) and Karl Popper (. epistemic); they provide the ways in which the evolutionists of the book should be assessed. Erasmus Darwin's crude and speculative approach is contrasted to Charles Darwin's rigorous empirical one.

provides a starting point for those who want to know what the science wars are all about. He argues that if the subjectivist view is correct, social constructionism and all its attendant moral, religious, and political content, should be fairly constant features of science throughout history.

Mystery of Mysteries book. Start by marking Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construction? as Want to Read

Mystery of Mysteries book. Start by marking Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construction? as Want to Read: Want to Read savin. ant to Read.

Into the fray comes "Mystery of Mysteries," an enlightening inquiry into the nature of science, using evolutionary .

Into the fray comes "Mystery of Mysteries," an enlightening inquiry into the nature of science, using evolutionary theory as a case study. Along the way Ruse considers two great popularizers of evolution, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, as well as two leaders in the field of evolutionary studies, Richard Lewontin and Edward O. Wilson, paying close attention to these figures' cultural commitments: Gould's transplanted Germanic idealism, Dawkins's male-dominated Oxbridge circle, Lewontin's Jewish background, and Wilson's southern childhood.

Or is it subjective, a social construction, as Thomas Kuhn and his students maintained? Into the fray comes Mystery .

Into the fray comes Mystery of Mysteries, an enlightening inquiry into. Michael Ruse may be the gentlest man in the world

Into the fray comes Mystery of Mysteries, an enlightening inquiry into. Michael Ruse may be the gentlest man in the world. Here, he certainly has no peer in providing a comprehensive history of evolutionary biology without descending into the acrimony and vituperation that has plagued the field.

Authors and affiliations. This revised version was published online in August 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.

Also of importance were social factors, not the least of which was the professionalization of science in Britain in the 19th century. Ernan McMullin's 1982 presidential address to the Philosophy of Science Association dealt with the issue of science and values, arguing that although scientists are rightfully wary of the infiltration of cultural and social values, their work is guided by epistemic values, such as the drive for consistency and predictive fertility.

With the recent Sokal hoax--the publication of a prominent physicist's pseudo-article in a leading journal of cultural studies--the status of science moved sharply from debate to dispute. Is science objective, a disinterested reflection of reality, as Karl Popper and his followers believed? Or is it subjective, a social construction, as Thomas Kuhn and his students maintained? Into the fray comes Mystery of Mysteries, an enlightening inquiry into the nature of science, using evolutionary theory as a case study.

Michael Ruse begins with such colorful luminaries as Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles) and Julian Huxley (brother of novelist Aldous and grandson of T. H. Huxley, "Darwin's bulldog" ) and ends with the work of the English game theorist Geoffrey Parker--a microevolutionist who made his mark studying the mating strategies of dung flies--and the American paleontologist Jack Sepkoski, whose computer-generated models reconstruct mass extinctions and other macro events in life's history. Along the way Ruse considers two great popularizers of evolution, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, as well as two leaders in the field of evolutionary studies, Richard Lewontin and Edward O. Wilson, paying close attention to these figures' cultural commitments: Gould's transplanted Germanic idealism, Dawkins's male-dominated Oxbridge circle, Lewontin's Jewish background, and Wilson's southern childhood. Ruse explicates the role of metaphor and metavalues in evolutionary thought and draws significant conclusions about the cultural impregnation of science. Identifying strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the "science wars," he demonstrates that a resolution of the objective and subjective debate is nonetheless possible.

Comments to eBook Mystery of Mysteries : Is Evolution a Social Construction
Risteacor
Michael Ruse (born 1940) is a philosopher of science who teaches at Florida State University, and has written/edited books such as Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA,But Is It Science?,The Darwinian Revolution,The Evolution-Creation Struggle,Darwinism and its Discontents, etc. He wrote in the Preface to this 1999 book, "This is a book about the nature of science using evolutionary theory as a case study... in this book I am using biology to try to understand philosophy... This book is intended more for a general audience."

He notes, "[Theodosius] Dobzhansky, though he hated war, nevertheless thought that the West must maintain its nuclear superiority and that if this means testing, then so be it. He and his students were therefore keen to show that the radiation artifically introduced into the atmosphere has little or no bad effect---possibly a good effect even!... I have little doubt that cultural factors lying behind the formal science ... helped significantly to flesh out the gaps between the proven and the presumed. The fact that the Atomic Energy Commission was delighted with these results and happy to support the work ... was a nice bonus. Everybody's ends were being served." (Pg. 110-111)

He observes, "when it comes to saltationism---the claim that evolution would have come about ... only through large new variations... [Richard Dawkins says], 'By what mysterious, built-in wisdom does the body choose to mutate in the direction of getting better, rather than getting worse'? Normally, variations are deleterious, and large variations are very deleterious. This is an empirical fact, yet one entirely ignored or minimized by saltationism." (Pg. 127)

He suggests, "A huge amount of hostility to religion is also characteristic of Dawkins's writings... Recently, this hostility has become so obsessional and so overt that one might truly say that today this value---blasting religious beliefs---is a major reason why Dawkins does what he does... It is precisely because Darwinism can so substitute for Christianity that Dawkins finds the theory attractive." (Pg. 130)

He admits, "Charles Darwin took magnificent leaps forward. At the same time he had epistemic weaknesses: there was certainly nothing much by way of exact prediction, and there were perceived epistemic failures as well---the inconsistency of his theory with the earth-dating findings from physics, for example." (Pg. 237)

This book will interest those interested in the Creation/Evolution debate.
Vuzahn
I imagine most readers who are drawn to a book like this have asked themselves something similar while contending with issues that are important to them. Enter Michael Ruse who argues in this thought provoking book that such questions, although critically important, are ultimately futile; there's always going to be a dichotomy. The ongoing debate between the scientific worldview of objective reality on one hand, and the humanistic vision of subjective cultural values on the other hand, still remains unresolved. Ruse as both a philosopher and biologist has as good a chance as any of shedding some light on this MYSTERY OF MYSTERIES. Is there indeed something "real" underlying science or as the book's subtitle suggests "Is Evolution a Social Construction?"
Although evolution is the specific subject looked at, the book is excellent in putting all of science and it's practitioners into a useful historical and cultural setting. Ruse normally has a very low opinion of "popular science" but in recognition of the importance of the topic of "science vs culture", he has offered a book that will appeal to a general audience. It's well written with ideas carefully explained and he's humorous in parts. Ruse provides a good glossary to help with the evolotuionary biology and philosophy terminology. Let's start where he does by looking at one of those terms. Science is founded on "epistemic values" which Ruse defines as "those norms or rules that supposedly lead to objective knowledge". Ruse contrasts the "objectivist" view of science - illustrated by the work of Karl Popper - with the "subjectivist" approach of Thomas S Kuhn who saw science in terms of "cultural values". The whole notion of social constructions owes its existence to Kuhn's shifting paradigms. Ruse's first chapter is a short and brilliant explanation on the difference between Popper's and Kuhn's views.
Most of the following chapters are mini biographies of some of the better known evolutionary scientists, and case studies of their work to see where it stacks up along the Popper/Kuhn scale. Ruse says "I wanted to present a portrait of individual scientists and ultimately ask the question: Is science what scientists think, something about the real world? Or is it, as cultural studies thinks, a cultural constraint, a reflection of society?" He argues that if the subjectivist view is correct, social constructionism and all its attendant moral, religious, and political content, should be fairly constant features of science throughout history. The first individual he studies is Erasmus Darwin, and sure enough, his science was steeped in the culture of the day. Ruse believes that "science is special" so he expects that as science matured, a more objective nature would emerge - built on predictive capabilities, consistency, and explanative powers. In contrast to his grandfather Erasmus, Charles Darwin's thinking represented a major step forward in terms of epistemic values. Ruse still finds other influences at work, most noticeably religious values. Darwin was never an atheist and only became an agnostic late in life.
The other scientists looked at in order are: Julian Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin, Edward O Wilson, Geoffrey Parker, and Jack Sepkowski. The last two individuals are practitioners of "science of the first order" and Ruse is hard-pressed to find cultural values impinging as it did with the quasi-science of Erasmus Darwin. With regard to the "big names", Ruse explores what influences them. "I'm interested" he says "in Dawkins' violent atheism, Gould's New York Jewish background and connection to Marxism, and Wilson's Southern Baptist background and fascination with the military". Where Wilson is shown to make broad metaphysical statements, Lewontin is parsimonious with praise for the power of genes. Ruse saves some stick for one of his pet peeves - those "poularizers" of science. He does make a distinction between the books that Dawkins, Gould, and Wilson offer us and the work that is shared with professionals. However in Gould's case he's unimpressed either way. "The average working evolutionist is no better off with Gould than without him".
The criticisms of pet theories and ideas are all laid out here, and for those who have read widely about the "science wars", the level of vituperation and personal commentary will come as no surprise. That aside this is a brilliant exposition on the evolution of evolutionary thought and a good analysis of the nature of science. Ruse believes that "both Popper and Kuhn were right". His book offers a strong argument for scientists to acknowledge this and to recognize how this influences their work.
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