Steven Weinberg isn't ashamed of science. Of course, as a Nobel winner in physics, he does have emotional capital invested in the enterprise, but most of his arguments are sound and compelling. Facing Up
is a collection of his essays, written over 15 years, celebrating and defending mainstream science. Rising up against the cultural critics who insist that science is essentially politics or even imperialism dressed up in a white coat, he is patient and eloquent as he explains how their misreadings of scientific literature and their own preconceptions guide their reasoning. From mildly wonkish to endearingly passionate, his writing engages the reader's full attention regardless of cultural affiliation. Science lovers will adore Weinberg's unabashed boosterism, while skeptics can try to rise to his challenge. --Rob Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
Winner of the Nobel prize for physics in 1979, Weinberg will be well known to science buffs for his book The First Three Minutes and to a wider readership for his frequent essays in the New York Review of Books. He is one of the foremost proponents of reductionism, "the explanation of a wide range of scientific principles in terms of simpler, more universal ones." He has also been a major figure in the so-called science wars, arguing against writers like Derrida and Latour who question the objective character of scientific knowledge and maintain that cultural factors influence the nature of scientific discoveries. This collection of 23 essays dating from 1985 to 2001 will probably have only limited appeal because Weinberg never ventures too far beyond a few recurring topics: reductionism, the Big Bang and inflation in the early universe, and the problems of introducing culture as a variable into science. While not a Johnny One Note, he might justifiably be called a Johannes Leitmotif; some contrasting themes, along with a wider field of references and analogies, would have made the collection much more compelling. Yet he is quite adept at explaining complex concepts clearly to the general public, as in the magisterial essay "The Great Reduction: Physics in the Twentieth Century," and those readers who do pick up the book should be sure not to miss his controversial assault on paradigm shifts, "The Non-Revolution of Thomas Kuhn."
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