- Series: Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series
- Paperback: 600 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 15, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226360512
- ISBN-13: 978-0226360515
- Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1.4 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,581,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Science as a Process: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science (Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series) 1st Edition
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Applies evolutionary models to the cultural and conceptual change of intellectual communities. Essential reading for anyone interested in how ideas evolve, and how best to describe these processes rigorously.
From the Back Cover
The scientists I have studied investigate such things as fruit flies, fossil fish, and slime molds. As diverse as these organism are, they have one thing in common: they cannot read the conclusions published about them. My subjects can. One of my goals in this book has been to present a fair and balanced estimate of the influence of various factors, including professional allegiances and alliances, on the course of systematic and evolutionary biology.
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Top Customer Reviews
But in terms of the book's overall argument, it doesn't seem we end up with all that much after 500 pages of text. I found myself a bit worn down and more than a bit frustrated by then. Yes, scientific change can be seen as a selection process with much in common with natural selection in biology. But the questions that conclusion suggests for future research (e.g., "Does science develop more quickly in areas characterized by competing factions than in areas where scientists work largely alone?") don't seem very exciting or novel, nor do they seem to require Hull's selectionist framework. I'm reminded of systems theory, where once you point out that interdependent things can often be viewed as elements of a system, nothing much of interest seems to follow. Similarly, memetics and viral theories of information spread involve an interesting insight, but where is the yield?
Hull spends a lot of time on the details of how articles end up published or rejected by journals, much less on the processes by which research grants are given out. His subjects worked in museums and other environments where outside financial support apparently was not critical; but that is hardly characteristic of most areas of science today, where whole labs float on soft money and the scramble for research dollars is intense. One has to wonder, too, about the extent to which his conclusions based on "small science" would hold for the kind of big-money science done in the pharmaceutical industry or where scientists themselves become entrepreneurs, such as we see today in genomics and the high-payoff areas of molecular biology generally. There is something slightly quaint about his taxonomists sniping at each other over control of their conference agendas.
For a much more succinct account of Hull's selectionist model, I'd recommend his later book, "Science and Selection: Essays on Biological Evolution and the Philosophy of Science" (2001).