10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 1999
Too often sciences are taught without much consideration for their inner workings; emphasis is put on techniques, but not enough on the philosophical considerations that keep sciences honest and as free of dogma as possible. This book by Alan Chalmers successfully and concisely engage us into thinking about the many ways the beliefs in the sciences try to justify themselves, and how some of them fail at doing so. I find this book an essential addition to any science student's bookshelf to critically help her through her studies, and also for professors through whom honest scientists may emerge.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2006
Alan Chalmers's "What is this thing called Science?" is an introduction to the philosophy of science. While Chalmers reaches some of his own conclusions, the book generally digests theories in the philosophy of science with standard criticisms in a very friendly and unimposing manner.
This book is quite comprehensive, covering the nature and justification of scientific theories, theories about scientific progress and the realism/anti-realism debate, among other topics. It progresses chronologically through inductivism, falsificationism, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend and more contemporary theories.
Chalmers explains and critically evaluates the theories clearly and in some depth. He often illustrates his claims with examples from the history of science. The book is also well organised, and each chapter is concluded with suggestions for further reading.
The third edition of this book is significantly changed from the previous editions, including new chapters on Bayesianism, the new experimentalism, natural laws (I like Boyle's explanation; pity Chalmers dismisses it so quickly) and the realism/anti-realism debate.
"What is this thing called Science?" has remained popular for well over two decades. While there are many new alternatives available, I recommend this book for introductory courses in the philosophy of science and for anyone interested in the subject.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This clearly written book is a very good introduction to philosophy of science. Based on the authors considerable experience with teaching this subject, it is aimed at advanced undergraduates and can be read profitably by any interested person. Chalmers point of departure is that philosophy of science is an effort to capture what is distinct and distinctly successful as a way of gaining knowledge. Chalmers begins with an examination of naive ideas of science based on simple empiricism, naive positivism, and induction. He shows these quickly and clearly to be misguided. This leads to a set of chapters investigating the idea that theory is the distinguishing feature of science. Chalmers has a nice set of chapters describing critically the approaches of Popper, Kuhn, and Lakatos, all of which are found to have some strengths. Chalmers is equally good on the defects of these approaches, all of which fail to capture crucial aspects of scientific knowledge and progress. A similar chapter is devoted to Paul Feyerabend's attack on scientific knowledge. Chalmers follows with chapters on other, recent approaches including Bayesian views and the "new experimentalism." The latter does much better at describing progression of scientific knowledge. Chalmers then concludes with chapters on the nature of scientific laws and a sensible discussion of realism versus anti-realism. A consistent feature of this book is use of historical example, particularly from physics, to explore philosophical issues. The bibliography is decent.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2005
I disagree with Chalmers. He admits to the reader on page 169 that he believes the philosophy of science, and therefore this book, is of no help to scientists. This claim he supports by stating his book primarily assults our societal ideologies of science (i.e. either an unwavering association of science with truth, or an impenetrable opinion that science is simply a buffet of ideas to freely choose from). I agree with this statement, but I contend such ideologies exist significantly within the scientific community as well. Perhaps Chalmers assumes his writings won't be internalized by the practicing scientist. This assumption may be true, but my evidence of one data point (me) suggests perhaps scientists (especially apprentices like me) can gain from this book.
I recommend this book only to those practicing scientist who have the courage to allow Chalmers' microscope to examine what they believe and how they justify their existance.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2011
Chalmers does a great job explaining theories clearly and gives a solid dissection of main arguments. To me, he tends to put a lot of emphasis on Chemistry and Physics. I thoroughly enjoyed his discussion on speculative theories and falsifiability. It's an inspiring book!!