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The End Of Science: Facing The Limits Of Knowledge In The Twilight Of The Scientific Age Reprint Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0553061741
ISBN-10: 0553061747
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In a series of interviews with luminaries of modern science, Scientific American senior editor John Horgan conducted a guided tour of the scientific world and where it might be headed in The End of Science. The book, which generated great controversy and became a bestseller, now appears in paperback with a new afterword by the author. Through a series of essays in which he visits with such figures as Roger Penrose, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Freeman Dyson, and others, Horgan captures the distinct personalities of his subjects while investigating whether science may indeed be reaching its end. While this book is in no way dumbed down, it is accessible and can take the general reader to the outer edges of scientific exploration.

From Publishers Weekly

Scientific American columnist Horgan here interviews an impressive array of scientists and philosophers, who seem sharply divided over the prospects and possibilities of science. Among the pessimists, molecular biologist Gunther Stent suggests that science is reaching a point of incremental, diminishing returns as it comes up against the limits of knowledge; philosopher Thomas Kuhn sees science as a nonrational process that does not converge with truth; Vienna-born thinker Paul Feyerabend objects to science's pretensions to certainty and its potential to stamp out the diversity of human thought and culture. More optimistic are particle physicist Edward Witten, pioneer of superstring theory (which posits a universe of 10 dimensions); robotics engineer Hans Moravec, who envisions superintelligent creative robots; and physicist Roger Penrose, who theorizes that quantum effects percolating through the brain underlie consciousness. Other interviewees are Francis Crick, Noam Chomsky, David Bohm, Karl Popper, Murray Gell-Mann, Sheldon Glashow, Ilya Prigogine and Clifford Geertz. Despite the dominant doomsaying tone, this colloquium leaves much room for optimism.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (May 5, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553061747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553061741
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,479,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm a young scientist doing chemical physics research in graduate school. I bought this book with the intention that I would like to criticize it-- after having read the thing.
Despite being fully ready to rip it to shreds, I found that I really enjoyed this book. This revelation doesn't cause me discomfort, but the violent reaction to the book within the science community does. It was really bad in Physics. This is odd, indeed: Physics is a particularly arrogant field. We can calculate almost anything, we can come up with some explanation to almost any phenomenon. To think that we actually haven't figured it all out is completely contradictory to our attitude about how much we already know.
The main problem is that the criticism is not actually on target. Horgan is not writing the eulogy for Science, he is lamenting the fact that there aren't going to be any obvious, cataclysmic revolutions that Discovery Channel producers can turn into week-long mini-series. There aren't going to be any headlines that read, "Einstein was wrong! " Maybe he's right. So what?
Most science is involved in narrowly-focused, penetrating investigations of, well, rather trivial details. No one suffering from the 1918 flu could care less about the hydrogen atom spectrum. Rydberg, Lyman, and, yes, Bohr were also muddling through basically minute details as far as pandemics are concerned. So they got lucky, and found out that "Newton was wrong! " The spectrum of hydrogen was well-known long before 1926, when Schrodinger came up with his eponymous equation. Even more time elapsed between the discovery of quantum mechanics and its most important application--the microprocessor. So who are we to say that great discoveries won't be made in 50 years?
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Format: Hardcover
There's much to learn from this book. Horgan's Grand Tour of scientists' homes, laboratories and their conferences, including personal histories and researchers' theories is comprehensive. You will learn ideas in physics, cosmology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology - in short, nearly every aspect of basic science comes under his scrutiny and assessment. A wide-ranging book in time and topics, it is almost possible to read it selectively. Major personalities in every field have their work, publications and personalities examined, revealed and commented on. In short, Horgan takes an Olympian stance on nearly all science.
As much as he tries to teach us, you come away with only one conclusion. John Horgan is the sole arbiter of the worth of science being undertaken today. And science, as an enterprise, is through - in his eyes. Horgan's theme is that empirical research has achieved its limits. Particle physics is delving so deeply into the atom that evidence can no longer be discerned, only inferred. Biology has no grand pronouncements pending about life. Even cognitive science, perhaps one of the fastest growing areas of research, foresees no "breakthrough". All future science, he contends, will be but picking out niggling details that reinforce the great conceptions of Copernicus, Darwin and Einstein. Science, he argues, has gone from empirical to "ironic". It is no longer grandiose, but petty and "not converging on the truth".
Horgan struggles to bring lofty scientific figures into your lounge room. He visits Karl Popper, Richard Dawkins, Francis Crick and countless [but not nameless] others. Dress and grooming are carefully scrutinised. I lost track of the number of "khaki pants" his victims wore. And make no mistake, Horgan's approach is firmly predatory.
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By A Customer on August 10, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book consists mostly of interviews with scientists and some philosophers who have been prominent in the last few decades. While some of these interviews have entertaining moments, Horgan clearly cannot hold a candle to most of the people he speaks with. One result is that he appears to consider his own questions deep, but he shows the perceptive and analytical abilities of, perhaps, a bright college sophomore. What I find most offensive in the book, however, is Horgan's frequently snide and derisive tone. Those whom he wishes to favor he quotes in polished, articulate English, but those whom he wishes to ridicule he quotes with all the "ums" and "okays" that all but the most consistently formal of people are inclined to use colloquially. His deliberate lack of even-handedness in this regard is very unprofessional. At times he goes beyond a mere sneer: there is wicked delight in relaying a mishap suffered by Mitchell Feigenbaum (one of the pioneers of chaos theory), followed by a patently stupid non sequitur. His treatment of Edward Witten, too, is unforgivable; however remote and abstruse Witten's theories may be, he is an absolutely outstanding figure in his fields and deserves more respect than Horgan gives him.

What about the science part? There is really not much. He states an astonishingly naive definition of science and attempts to coin a term "ironic science," which he uses too frequently and which seems ultimately to mean little beyond scientific fields or theories he is not sympathetic to. There is grindingly repetitious cheerleading for pet theories.
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