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Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0195096361 ISBN-10: 0195096363

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (August 24, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195096363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195096361
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,448,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Science is "heretical," according to Northeastern University physics professor Cromer, because its essence--objectivity--defies primitive human egocentrism. He suggests that objectivity is a very uncommon kind of thinking that evolved only in ancient Greece. Many countries established astrological systems, he points out, but only Greece produced solid geometry and number theory. Cromer nails his thesis against the doors of what he perceives as the current orthodoxies of New Age romanticism, political correctness and multiculturalism, reiterating his view that the core of scientifc thinking was a uniquely Western discovery and not a natural development latent in all evolving civilizations. He believes that this "uncommon sense" is easily overwhelmed by the persistent infantile appeal of such "magical" explanations of our observed world as UFOs, the paranormal and crystal channelings. Cromer and colleagues have conceived a science curriculum called SEED (Science Education Experiments & Demonstrations) for students and teachers in the middle school grades which is worthy of consideration by all educators. Illustrations.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Cromer (Physics/Northeastern) advances several agendas in this provocative, polemical work. For starters, he asserts that science isn't an inevitable development in advanced cultures. Rather, he sees most people at most times stuck in the egocentric/magical world that Piaget described as central to the early developmental stages of childhood. Had it not been for the Greeks--with their democratic penchant for dialogue and debate--and the brilliance of Euclid, Archimedes, et al. (but not Aristotle), we might still be animists or dependent on religious prophets for our cosmology and cosmogony. The author contends that it was the rebirth of Greek science in the Renaissance, combined with the age of exploration and the invention of movable type, that created today's world dominated by science and technology. We've arrived at a stage where we can talk about the completeness of science and, based on probabilities and calculations, Cromer concludes that there's no point in seeking extraterrestrial intelligence or dreaming of intergalactic travel. Moreover, if we're to improve the world, we'd better do something about our schools: Instead of making them substitutes for home, as well as vehicles for social policies, we need to incorporate dynamic hands-on science programs, pouring our resources into the eighth and ninth grades and eliminating the last two years of high school. Wow. Clearly he who credits the Greeks for the spirit of debate will himself invite debate. What of the history of technology...mathematics...inductive proofs...the (Indian) invention of zero? As for the completeness of science, that's what they said in 1900...and said again in the early days of the genetic code. Overall, then, a generous helping of hubris here--but not without redeeming insights on good and bad science, as well as examples of Cromer's own work in reforming middle-school science curricula. (Nineteen line drawings) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 23, 1996
Format: Paperback
I found this book a paridigm shifter. It will permantly alter your thinking about
the puzzle of why seemingly rational people will accept irrational
attitudes. The author suggests that the rise of the "scientific
method" was a (happy) historical accident that we owe to the greeks.

His experience as a physics teacher is used as an example of the
difficulty in weening people away from subjective thinking.
The central idea of this book is that objective thinking is a
learned skill that does not come naturally to humans. While this may seem
inherently pessimistic it seems to me more realistic than
ignoring a major educational problem.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By F. G. Nobrega on September 8, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was delighted with this wonderful book. The author gives an all around explanantion about the origins of science and its nature, pointing out the misconceptions that are distorting science education. A great book for the professional scientist that usually never has time to ponder how science is distinct from the intuitive creativity of common sense and the educated person that wants to understand this activity that permeates our society but is basically not understood.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
Fascinating overview of intellectual development in human civilization. Cromer goes out on a limb with his remarks on the impossibility of exploring space, but he is right on target in his remarks on the abysmal state of American science education. With PC dumbing down education and people like Paul Feyerabend ridiculing the notion that science is of any use whatsoever, Cromer is a breath of fresh air.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By kychan on July 26, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is almost two decades old, first published in 1993, but its subject is as fresh today as it has always been, and its arguments as relevant and potent as you can hope to find in a good scientific text. A very readable book, the paperback light on the hand, the layout inviting, the notes, references and index comprehensive, and two appendices a pleasurable addition, it is very well written, and earns my highest recommendation. That scientific thinking is so different from common sense, that it began from debating as a way of finding truth, in the Greeks, the only ancient culture that could think scientifically, that it was almost lost for good - all those bits of history make one realise how precious a gift scientific thinking is, and how important it is to maintain an environment that allows science to flourish, not to mislead people with bunk. There is much this book shares with Lewis Wolpert's The Unnatural Nature of Science: Why Science Does Not Make (Common) Sense another excellent book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David F. Duncan on May 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Physicist Alan Cromer discusses how and why science is so different from the way people ordinarily view things. His view differs from much that is popular in philosophy of science precisely because he is a real scientist who actually experiences how scientific research is done and how scientific knowledge is assessed and applied in the real world of the working scientist. An important and well written classic of the subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Calderwood on April 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
I read this book when it originally came out and continue to agree with its central premise, that science truly understood cannot occur in a highly hierarchical society (e.g. China's, which while Chinese technology predated the West's by millennia, was not science and moved at a relatively glacial pace).

Readers of this book may consider the current sorry state of scientific research in the USA (and elsewhere). Today nearly all "science" is funded by government grants directly or indirectly, and if one buys Cromer's premise this argues that scientific progress should be giving way to statist orthodoxy and stasis. Whether it was a theist religion or today's modern theology of democracy, only projects that propose to reinforce current dogma are apt to be funded while those challenging the status quo go begging. For a perfect example of this search on the name "Peter Duesberg" or visit his website [...] Clearly the grant system is biased toward orthodoxy in ways probably not seen since the days of Copernicus and Galileo.

Dr. Cromer offers a valuable basis on which to form opinions as to scientific validity, a basis we all should cultivate as the line between science and public policy advocacy is blurred to the point of non-existence.

For more on how non-rational thought naturally dominates human social behavior (and a wealth of cascading implications thereof) consider then reading The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior and the New Science of Socionomics
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