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A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science Paperback – March 9, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0195117264 ISBN-10: 0195117263

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 9, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195117263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195117264
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,347,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This book is the latest and most explosive bomb to be launched in the "science wars." Recently, a cadre of historians and philosophers of science have attempted to deconstruct the scientific process by examining its underlying social metaphors. Many scholars, especially practicing scientists, view these efforts with undisguised disdain. The essays here, which are by scientists and philosophers, debunk postmodernist science studies by exposing their purported biases, errors, and fallacies. Essentially, they deconstruct the deconstructionists. For example, Michael Ruse asks, "Is Darwinism Sexist?" while Alan Sokal tackles "What the Social Text Affair Does and Does Not Approve." Although some olive branches are extended, the overall tone is aggressive. Academics on both sides of the debate will need this book. Expect a counterattack.?Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, FL
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review


"This book is the latest and most explosive bomb to be launched in the 'science wars.'...Academics on both sides of the debate will need this book. Expect a counterattack."--Library Journal


"A thoughtful, wide-ranging, spirited, and highly informative collection. The sophisticated case for objectivity is fully developed in these expert pages."--Frederick Crews, author of The Memory Wars (1995) and editor of Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend (1998)


Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A few months ago, I gave this book a mere three stars. Since then, I've used arguments made in the book several times. There are, alas, many people out there, especially among "Left" activists, who really do believe that, for example, we "Westerners" are all unrepentant bigots, that we have done nothing for the rest of the world except pursue our racist and imperialistic tendencies, and on and on. We do live in some pretty anti-scientific times, and that opens the door for New Age fairy tales especially among the better educated, those, again, of a social inclination who can't understand the "hard sciences," so we blame them for all our shortcomings.
I'd like to give the book five stars even if it might help sell just one. But, as I'm not a "hard scientist" myself, I can't claim to understand everything in the book, and I'll have to limit it to four.
Please, read it, though, and don't be surprised if it opens your eyes to the "arguments" people are using which are swiftly refuted in the book. At least acquaint yourself with the arguments, and use them to confront the Sandra Hardings and their ilk who really haven't a clue what they're talking about.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Marcy L. Thompson VINE VOICE on August 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a collection of essays, and as is usual in such an anthology, the quality of the writing and of the arguments is variable. However, the editor did a terrific job of selecting writers who understand their topics, are not too terribly polemical, and write well enough to articulate their viewpoints.
The book ranges over a variety of responses to the post-modernist attack on science. I found the book quite informative on the content of the anti-science arguments, and while I have not read all of them, the ones I have read are reported fairly in this book. Then they are demolished.
Ini a similar way, I am only competent to judge about half of the science that is presented in the book, but again, what I do know independently is described accurately and articulately in this volume. This book shows that it is possible to write coherently about science and about social issues at the same time. I found the book useful in my attempt to understand the anti-science attacks more clearly than I had been able to do on my own, and I enjoyed the elegant, spirited rebuttals. Read this book, and then think for yourself. You should enjoy the process, no matter which side of the argument you end up on.
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52 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on July 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
Noretta Koertge deserves the highest praise for assembling this group of essays. Anyone feeling the "postmodernist" assault on literature or philosophy has deteriorated will learn that science remains besieged by the cult of "cultural relativism". Each author provides a counterstrike against selected issues the "pomos" have launched to discredit science and/or scientists. In brief, postmodern attacks on science are uniformly devoid of understanding how science works. The critics of science distort history, fabricate or selectively edit texts and create meaningless issues. The collection illuminates these practices, exposing a wealth of poor scholarship and specious reasoning.
The writing quality in these selections is uniformly good, although some topics may prove difficult for readers unfamiliar with the material. "Superstring" theory, for example, is perhaps the most arcane topic in physics, but Norman Levitt underscores its importance in a finely developed essay on the future of science. Difficult subjects may cause some readers to avoid delving into this collection as being too remote. Never fear - this anthology has urgent value for you. To best understand why, you should read this series starting near the back. Koertge's essay on the impact of postmodernism on education is more than a little frightening. Koertge labels the application of "pomo" on education as "Civilian Casualties", amply demonstrating why this book should receive wide readership. She clearly demonstrates how far ideology attempts, and to some extent succeeds, in distorting the teaching of many fields such as mathematics.
While the essays cover a wide spectrum of topics, a recurring theme is the impact of "feminist" writers.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have a theory: That those of us with a social science inclination are intimidated by the specialized expertise required of the "hard" sciences. Consequently, we try to rival it with incomprehensible jargon, and findings with no evidentiary basis, of our own. We have, of course, our causes, racism, sexism, this-ism, that-ism. And, because we see hard scientists as our adversaries--because we don't understand what they're saying or how they reached their conclusions (and maybe because we envy them)--we accuse them of these sins.
This fine book is based on Alan Sokal's parody published by an allegedly scholarly social journal. Unfortunately for the journal's editors, they did not recognize it as a parody. In the parody, Sokal, a physicist, actually, heaven help us, quoted some of the post-modernists' "findings," that, for example, various conclusions of quantum mechanics--again, far beyond the comprehension of us social scientists--are based on white, male biases, and other nonsense of that ilk. The essays in the book were written by Sokal and other scientists citing particular post-modernists' work, and their dubious conclusions. They're good in describing, for example, the preconceived notions and false assumptions of the post-modernists, and how some "renowned" post-modernists' conclusions are not what they would have found had they followed their own logic. The essays, while eloquent, were written more for those who can understand the math used in the documents that the post-modernists trash.
There is a real talent in being able to translate difficult hard science math and conclusions into lay (non-scientist) terms.
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