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Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic Hardcover – January 1, 2009

10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195064575 ISBN-10: 0195064577 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


"[Grinnell] does a lot of serious thinking aloud about big themes in science: discovery and credibility and integrity and (perhaps all the more pointedly because he is an academic biologist who works in Dallas, Texas, among the biblical fundamentalists) the nature of faith. Out of the perfectly self-effacing prose, very good things emerge, including a sense of the writer as a warm, fair-minded and thoughtful human being with a finely tuned sense of propriety. He chooses beautiful and apposite quotations from Francis Collins, Albert Einstein and the painter Joan Miro in half a page, and punctiliously includes the references."--Tim Radford,

"A fantastic example of science written for broad audiences. Grinnell does a wonderful job of making science relevant to those outside of a so-called academic bubble who are interested to learn more about the process. He also provides a multidimensional view of who scientists are and what drives them."--The Intersection,

"An intelligent and very readable book in a calm voice, and it certainly should be read by anyone interested in the ongoing (and raging) dispute about the compatibility of science and religion."--Dan Agin, The Huffington Post

"Everyday Practice of Science should be required reading for any young scientist seeking a deeper and more fully contextualized understanding of science and its impact on society."--The Quarterly Review of Biology

Listed in Science News' Bookshelf

"Drawing upon his long years of professional experience and expertise, Professor Grinnell provides an informed perspective on the subject as he demystifies the processes and provides context for understanding what science is all about and how it generally operates. Everyday Practice of Science is highly recommended reading for both students and non-specialized general readers with an interest in understanding how science works in or out of the laboratory setting."--Midwest Book Review

"Frederick Grinnell has written a book that aims to help the non-scientist understand what scientific practice looks - and feels - like to the scientists...also an excellent read for the scientist who wants an introduction to the philosophical underpinnings of (and challenges inherent within) the scientific knowledge-building project. Grinnell offers thought-provoking observations on the ways the interests of scientists and non-scientists in our society are tied to each other."--Janet D. Stemwedel,

"I highly recommend The Everyday Practice of Science to anyone who is pursuing or even considering a scientific career. Grinnell's discussions illuminate and provoke deeper thought on aspects of practice that one may otherwise not ponder unless/until they are forced to deal with them in their own career."--Alice Kim, Science and Consciousness Review

"What is surprising about this book is the way it provides various avenues to engage in productive discussions about doing research....Grinnell presents a candid account of the scientific process to make it relevant to those outside academic science." -- Jose Vazquez, NYU, Cell Biology Education Journal

"Everyday Practice of Science is a must for every practicing researcher. To come across a book such as this, that brings such honesty and experience to the reality of practicing science is more than a treat to read, it's a must have." --Royal Society of Chemistry

About the Author

Frederick Grinnell is Professor of Cell Biology and founder of the Program in Ethics in Science and Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. He is the author of The Scientific Attitude.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195064577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195064575
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.7 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,609,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAME on July 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Forget everything you've learned about scientific methodology, and especially the scientific method, says cell biologist Fred Grinnell in his book "Everyday Practice of Science". Instead he insists, science often operates more successfully by relying on both intuition and passion, and occasionally, even serendipity. The scientific method - especially when viewed through a philosophical lens such as Karl Popper's famous "falsification" criterion - can be viewed more accurately as a guide, not an outright "Bible" - for scientific research. Grinnell contends that, for many scientists, instead of relying upon a strict adherence to the scientific method - which he frequently refers to as the "linear model of idealized research" - there is instead, what he regards as the "ambiguity of every day practice". Much of Grinnell's concise, coherent thought in this rather terse book does revolve around that ambiguity, but it is an ambiguity that may reside only in such "experimental" sciences like cell biology and biochemistry, not within other biological sciences like systematics and ecology. Regardless, Grinnell has written an important book on how science works, and one that should be read widely, both within the scientific community and outside, amongst the scientifically literate public.

Grinnell compares and contrasts the classic model of scientific research with what he refers to as "every day practice". In the classic model, a problem is stated, experiments are carried to confirm or refute hypotheses pertaining to this problem, determine whether experimental results confirm or reject these hypotheses and draw appropriate conclusions, and then seek independent confirmation of these results and conclusions by independent researchers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on January 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a math and physics teacher, I understand how difficult it is to communicate to people how science is actually done. In schools, we tend to idealize the process to make it easier for students to digest the fundamentals. Many teachers try to give students snapshots of the reality but it often seems to merely cloud the issue. And yet, if scientists are ever going to seem something other than high priests of rarified knowledge, we must learn to express what really goes on in our laboratories, journals and conferences--our scientific culture and society. With this book, Professor Grinnell has done much to aid that process.

The first half of Grinnell's book is truly excellent. In it, he uses his own research and experiences along with a few wider-ranging anecdotes to describe what really goes on in the laboratory: how research is done and how discoveries are made. When he is talking about his own work and experiences, he is quite compelling, offering real insight into the actual process of science.

That alone makes this book worthwhile. In the last half of the book, he tackles issues that are in many ways more complex; namely, how what goes on in the laboratory intersects with society. Here he tackles things like informed consent and the impact of faith. If his writing here is not quite as powerful as in the earlier sections, well, the issues are more complex and not as amenable to the kind of examples he was able to use in the first part.

My only real complaint is a personal one: as a physical scientist, I would have been more interested in examples taken from my field; however, Grinnell is a biologist and so, despite occasional efforts to reach further afield, his examples center on that world. Even so, his descriptions of the real workings of science should be widely read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Duncan on December 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It is refreshing to read a book about how science is done written by a real scientist who KNOWS how it is done. Other writers have written on a similar theme: Peter Medawar and Lewis Wolpert come to mind, even Richard Dawkins in some passages; but these are all household names, and it is more realistic to read about it from the point of view of the great mass of scientists who are not household names.

Frederick Grinnell takes a realistic view of the philosophers' notions of how science is done. Mostly we accept Karl Popper's idea of falsifiability as a guiding principle, but he reduces it to "in everyday practice, Popper's idea of falsification signifies being open to the possibility that we might be wrong". As for Thomas Kuhn, he tells that his book "had a great impact on the development of the field called science studies", but what he doesn't say would be more interesting, and more important, if it were true: he doesn't say that Kuhn had any influence on science. In both cases I think Grinnell has it right.

The middle chapters are about Discovery -- what procedures lead to new discoveries, and why were seemingly obvious things not seen earlier? Credibility -- how do we decide whether to believe new results? Integrity -- oddly titled, because it is more about funding than with what I would call integrity; and Informed Consent and Risk.

At the end of the book there is a chapter entitled Faith, in which he discusses the relationship between science and religion. Although he doesn't make a clear statement that he is religious himself, one gets a clear impression that he is, and he believes that science and religion can coexist, and they are complementary, both containing some of the truth.
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