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Monopolizing Knowledge [Kindle Edition]

Ian Hutchinson
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Can real knowledge be found other than by science?

In this unique approach to understanding today's culture wars, MIT
professor of nuclear science and engineering, Ian Hutchinson, answers
emphatically yes. He shows how scientism --- the often implicitly-held
contrary view that science is all the knowledge there is --- acts to
suffocate reason, religion, and ultimately science itself. Tracing the
history of the growth of scientism alongside natural science, and
their frequent confusion, Hutchinson explains the characteristics that
make modern science so persuasive and powerful, but at the same time
restrict its scope of application. He shows how a proper recognition
of science's scope, and a proper identification of what we call
nature, makes sense of both science and non-scientific knowledge like
history, law, politics, philosophy, sociology, and religion.

The error of scientism is responsible for much of the modern suspicion
of science by large sections of society and the academy. And it
underlies most of the militant atheist arguments against religion,
which are here concisely refuted. Even though, as Hutchinson explains,
scientism is not proved by science, and scientism as formal philosophy
is largely discredited, the world-view still remains highly
influential today. Often, its presumptions are held by both sides of
the debate, leading to irreconcilable confrontation. But in fact
modern science developed out of a Christian understanding of the
world. Science has been advanced, very often, by sincere Christian
believers, who did not suppose that religious knowledge, or indeed any
other non-scientific knowledge was ruled out by science. Rejecting
scientism enables a principled intellectual reconciliation of science
with religious faith, and with the rest of knowledge.

Product Details

  • File Size: 997 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Fias Publishing (December 27, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006QQ6ZPQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,647 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful September 28, 2011
Here is a book that is a must-read for culture-leaders; I found it very insightful. This MIT scientist author has put his finger right on the mark of where we as a society have gone wrong in terms of understanding the power and boundaries of science. As a scientist myself, I love science as a wonderful tool for studying the natural world. But by elevating science to be the final arbiter of all ideas and concepts and even history, some part of society have let science become 'scientism', a kind of religion of its own, and a distortion of true science. Hutchinson points out that scientific facts and truths are extremely important -- he lives them out in his own research -- but there are indeed other kinds of truths and facts: historical facts, religious truths, morality, etc. The erroneous view of science as as the ONLY source of truth that will somehow explain everything is harmful to true science and also to society as a whole and the way we understand truth and values.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What are scientific facts? June 1, 2013
By Cricket
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
(Ian Hutchinson, Monopolizing Knowledge, 2011)

This is a book with many profound insights that should be read by anyone who is interested in understanding how we come to regard things as "scientific facts".

Dr. Hutchinson argues against scientism: the popular belief that the only kind of knowledge is science. Scientism leads to everyone scrambling to have what they do classified as "science", and to rejecting other kinds of knowledge. This, in turn, leads critics of this overly inclusive view of science to reject all of it, including traditional science.

Professor Hutchinson lists what he thinks are the characteristic properties of traditional science: clarity and repeatability. He distinguishes different kinds of science, such as astronomy, which he classifies as an "observational "science. It is different from physics - but still having clarity and repeatability. He rules out sociology and political science because of the lack of repeatability.

I think that Professor Hutchinson's discussion of evolution is one of the best. He makes a distinction between natural law and natural history. Natural law includes physics. Natural history includes evolution - it is historically oriented and relies on different standards of validation than natural law. For example, observations in physics necessarily follow from the theory. In the case of evolution, observations that are plausible are offered as evidence. Dr. Hutchinson notes that the controversy surrounding evolution is partly the result of its insistence on being called a science (i.e. natural law), in the same meaning of the word as physics. If we were to accept that there are kinds of valid knowledge other than science, such as natural history, then the controversy could be defused.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True knowledge July 23, 2012
By Ben
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is a well-written overview of the history and philosophy of science, with a view to explaining its proper role in education and society today. Thoroughly researched and grounded in other writings on the subject, Dr. Hutchinson displays an excellent understanding of the topics involved. Furthermore, he maintains a clear focus on his central premise regarding the ill-effects of 'scientism' throughout, and does not stray into tangential discussions or debates. The tone of the book is quite pleasant as well, avoiding much of the more bitter arguments surrounding these topics. I highly recommend this book for all scientists and for anyone else interested in the intersection of science and other domains of knowledge.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars an ordinary view July 16, 2013
Scientism can be treated from a variety of perspectives. This is a good, ordinary critique by a Christian plasma MIT physicist, a useful summary, but at a very philosophically unsophisticated level. Of course, that makes it widely accessible and thus useful, but not particularly insightful. In my view, it neglects deep philosophical critiques such as Heidegger's or Wittgenstein's, and deep psychological critiques such as Joe Kovel's (see hisThe Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?, Second Edition). By far the most valuable and creative chapter is chapter 8, "The technological fix", which points out the folly of relying on a belief system to fix the disasters that it itself has brought about in the first place. (Kovel's book, cited above, does a better job.) The sad part is that this sound critique won't stop society from continuing to pursue technological fixes that are more than likely to worsen the situation in unanticipated ways. The warnings against technological fixes will be (psychologically) defended against, disdainfully dismissed as idealistic, naïve, ignorant, deluded -- or else they will just be ignored altogether.
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12 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? September 18, 2011
Assumption is the mother of all ... well stuff ups. This book asks some of the tough questions of some eminent people who seem to be unable to see the tree's for the forest as well as being blind to the beauty of the forest itself. Very thought provoking. Common sense 1 : humanism 0.
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More About the Author

Ian Hutchinson was born in England and educated at Cambridge University. He obtained his doctorate and his charming wife, Fran, from the Australian National University. He is Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, where his research group explores the confinement of plasmas hotter than the sun's center, aimed at producing practical energy from nuclear fusion reactions, the energy source of the stars. Ian has written and spoken widely on the relationship between science and Christianity. His new book "Monopolizing Knowledge" explores how the error of scientism feeds today's culture wars.


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