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Pluto's Republic: Incorporating The Art of the Soluble and Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (Oxford Paperbacks) Paperback – May 17, 1984


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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Later Printing edition (May 17, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192830392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192830395
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,127,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Rafe Champion on February 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a superb collection of essays by a Nobel Prizewinner in medicine who was also one of the best popular writers on science in recent times. Pluto's Republic contains the essays in two previous collections, The Art of the Soluble and The Hope of Progress, both currently out of print. It also contains essays on induction and intuition in scientific thought, several pieces not previously collected in book form and some new items. The contents range far and wide, including some vigorous polemics with Arthur Koestler following Medawar's review of The Act of Creation, comments on some recent books on the state of the art in cancer research and an essay on 'type A' behaviour and heart disease.
Medawar has forthright views on the use of technology to improve the world. He also considers that the traditional division of "pure" and "applied" science is unhelpful, probably deriving from the same perverse cast of mind that created the "romantic versus rational" dichotomy between imaginative and critical thinking, allied with the old Anglo-Saxon class distinction between science (for amateur "gentlemen") and technology (for grubby professional "players"). The traditional view, preserved jealously by pure scientists, is that researchers of high caliber should be allowed to follow their interests wherever they will, either in the belief that this is what the universities and the life of the mind are all about, or in the confident expectation that eventually fundamental work will pay off at the practical level. Medawar concedes
"This procedure works; that is, it works sometimes, and it may be the best we can do, but might not the converse approach be equally effective, given equal talent?
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "skeptic_quest" on March 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Peter Medawar was once asked by a Customs official when he landed in USA "Do you intend to overthrow the Constitution of the United States of America?". To which he replied that he did not intend to do so, and he hoped that he would not do so by accident.
This irreverent tone is apparent in several of the essays in this collection, notably in his review of Teilhard de Chardin's "The Phenomenon of Man" and Koestler's "The Act of Creation". He had a highly skeptical attitude to pretence of all kinds, and was not hesitant to speak out.
Medawar won a Nobel Prize for medicine and he took a broad view on science and its relation to society. Everyone with an interest in science, especially biological science, will find many items of interest in this collection.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Laniel on April 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am philosophically aligned with Medawar, which means philosophically aligned with Karl Popper. Pluto's Republic is a collection of essays in Popper's mold, which is to say: scientific, realistic about how scientists do their work, and opposed to pseudoscience of all kinds. Medawar has even picked up Popper's hatred of psychoanalysis, and gives anti-Marxism in the Popperian style a healthy go.

Medawar's heart is in the right place, and he's less astringent -- less academic, perhaps -- than Popper. He has great faith in the power of science to cure the world's ills, and conversely has a deep hatred of pseudosciences that purport to solve problems without submitting their claims to rigorous examination. The scientific life, properly conceived, is the one we all should aspire to: constant self-critique and constant piecemeal explanation. Science is an endless sequence of "conjectures and refutations," to use Popper's phrase.

That's one of Medawar's repeated critiques: that a long string of philosophers has misrepresented how science works, aided and abetted by polished scientific papers. This polished picture convinces us that we can understand the world free of theory: just gather a lot of data, look at it with an uncritical mind, and voilà: out of the data's forehead springs the goddess Theory, fully formed. Whereas if you watch how science actually happens, says Medawar -- if you actually listen to chatter in the lab -- you'll hear a temporarily plausible conjecture first; this conjecture drives the experiments. Scientists then gather data and either refute or temporarily confirm their story. Onward we go, haltingly, provisionally, in a piecemeal fashion.

So induction, as it may naïvely be imagined, is a non-starter as a description of how science works.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "skeptic_quest" on March 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
Peter Medawar was once asked by a Customs official when he landed in USA "Do you intend to overthrow the Constitution of the United States of America?". To which he replied that he did not intend to do so, and he hoped that he would not do so by accident.
This irreverent tone is apparent in several of the essays in this collection, notably in his review of Teilhard de Chardin's "The Phenomenon of Man" and Koestler's "The Act of Creation". He had a highly skeptical attitude to pretence of all kinds, and was not hesitant to speak out.
Medawar won a Nobel Prize for medicine and he took a broad view on science and its relation to society. Everyone with an interest in science, especially biological science, will find many items of interest in this collection.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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