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Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity, and Policy Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0226532622 ISBN-10: 0226532623 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226532623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226532622
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,427,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Very stimulating. . . . [Unsimple Truths] is clean and spare and fun to read. And to argue with. What more could one ask of a philosophical treatise?”
(Michael Ruse Quarterly Review of Biology)

“Drawing on nicely handled examples from psychiatry (e.g., major depressive disorder) biology (e.g., recent genetics and genomics, drug discovery, the study of insect societies), and the policy world (e.g., climate change and economic problems), Mitchell develops and illustrates a philosophy of science suited to the complexities scientists face. The result is a compact and elegant presentation of a philosophy of science she calls “integrative pluralism,” challenging many orthodox positions in the philosophy of science.”
(Richard M. Burian, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University BioScience)

About the Author

Sandra Mitchell is professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh and is the author of Biological Complexity and Integrative Pluralism.


More About the Author

Sandra D. Mitchell is Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsbrugh. She has degrees from Pitzer College, Claremont, California; The London School of Economics; and the University of Pittsburgh. More information can be found at her web page: http://www.pitt.edu/~smitchel/

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've been thinking about complexity for years, so it was a joy to discover this outstanding book. I agree with everything Sandra Mitchell says, and I felt like she was reading my mind. As a consequence, I may not have gained any major new ideas from the book, but it certainly helped in crystallizing my understanding in many areas.

Below, I've attempted a summary of the key points from the book, along with providing my own fairly detailed thoughts (not in the book) on how these ideas can be applied to the problem of cancer. My hope is that these thoughts will be both illustrative and useful in themselves.
____________________

Prevalence and Behavior of Complex Systems:

(1) Complex systems are ubiquitous, especially in biological and social domains. As described below, cancer exemplifies complexity.

(2) The behavior of complex systems tends to be multilevel and full of "messy" causal interactions. The biological complexity of cancer involves molecular, organelle, cellular, tissue, organ, and organismic levels, with lateral, upward, and downward causation within and across all of these levels. In addition, beyond biological complexity, the cancer problem also involves psychological complexity related to individual knowledge and decision making, as well as social complexity related to paradigms in cancer research and clinical oncology, institutional structures and practices, funding mechanisms, peer review processes, methods for disseminating information, drug approval processes, legal considerations, etc. Further, there are abundant upward and downward causal interactions across the biological, psychological, and social levels, thus making the complexity of the cancer problem truly intertangled, multifaceted, and encompassing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Samuel W. Mitchell on February 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is aimed at professors in Philosophy of Science and students with college level exposure to that field. It is a succinct presentation of the author's view -integrative pluralism- and its lessons for public policy.

As an articulate, thorough, and brief (119 pages of text) presentation of that position, the book is very helpful to anyone in the field. It will be particularly useful reading for graduate students and advanced undergraduates coming to grips with the major currents of thought there.

The book makes a case for integrative pluralism and then looks at the ways in which adopting the position would affect our views of scientific laws, the methods of natural science, public policy reasoning, and the range of scientific explanations.

A broad vision of science that sees its explanations and methods as being of a single kind, found paradigmatically in the most unifying theories and methods of physics, is inculcated into many of us. Integrative pluralism rejects this broad vision, and in particular rejects the view that a microscopic, physics-level, scale is in any way more privileged or illuminating than the explanations and methods of other sciences. Rather, science presents a motley of many different forms of interaction among different entities at higher and lower levels in both its methods, theories, and explanations. Sometimes the behavior of an organic molecule is explained by a history of selection of multicellular organisms.

Mitchell gives a variety of reasons why the complexity of phenomena that we study in natural science should lead us to adopt integrative pluralism. Any representation of the physical world is partial, idealized, and abstract (13, 23, 33).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Schilling on June 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The subject of the book is fascinating, worthy of the deepest and most careful analysis, which makes it a terrible shame that the book itself is so poorly written. Mitchell never uses one word where seventy-five will do, repeats herself endlessly, and rarely uses a concrete example to clarify her endless churn of abstractions. It's a well-intentioned book, I'm sure, but its only effect is to anger and frustrate the reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Evalyn F. Segal on March 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The argument took up the first 25 or 30% of the book and it was well done. But the rest of the book just repeated the same things.
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