The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age by John HorganAs staff writer for Scientific American, John Horgan has a window on contemporary science unsurpassed in all the world. Who else routinely interviews the likes of Lynn Margulis, Roger Penrose, Francis Crick, Richard Dawkins, Freeman Dyson, Murray Gell-Mann, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn, Chris Langton, Karl Popper, Stephen Weinberg, and E.O. Wilson, with the freedom to probe their innermost thoughts?In The End Of Science, Horgan displays his genius for getting these larger-than-life figures to be simply human, and scientists, he writes, ”are rarely so human...so at ther mercy of their fears and desires, as when they are confronting the limits of knowledge.”This is the secret fear that Horgan pursues throughout this remarkable book: Have the big questions all been answered? Has all the knowledge worth pursuing become known? Will there be a final ”theory of everything” that signals the end? Is the age of great discoverers behind us? Is science today reduced to mere puzzle solving and adding detains to existing theories?Horgan extracts surprisingly candid answers to there and other delicate questions as he discusses God, Star Trek, superstrings, quarks, plectics, consciousness, Neural Darwinism, Marxs view of progress, Kuhns view of revolutions, cellular automata, robots, and the Omega Point, with Fred Hoyle, Noam Chomsky, John Wheeler, Clifford Geertz, and dozens of other eminent scholars. The resulting narrative will both infuriate and delight as it mindles Horgans smart, contrarian argument for ”endism” with a witty, thoughtful, even profound overview of the entire scientific enterprise.Scientists have always set themselves apart from other scholars in the belief that they do not construct the truth, they discover it. Their work is not interpretation but simple revelation of what exists in the empirical universe. But science itself keeps imposing limits on its own power. Special relativity prohibits the transmission of matter or information as speeds faster than that of light; quantum mechanics dictates uncertainty; and chaos theory confirms the impossibility of complete prediction. Meanwhile, the very idea of scientific rationality is under fire from Neo-Luddites, animal-rights acitivists, religious fundamentalists, and New Agers alike.As Horgan makes clear, perhaps the greatest threat to science may come from losing its special place in the hierarchy of disciplines, being reduced to something more akin to literaty criticism as more and more theoreticians engage in the theory twiddling he calls ”ironic science.” Still, while Horgan offers his critique, grounded in the thinking of the worlds leading researchers, he offers homage too. If science is ending, he maintains, it is only because it has done its work so well.
The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age
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Expertise. Insights. Illumination.
Sometimes a discipline just goes through slow periods, even a few generations. So really depends on where you draw the line. Horgan isn't concerned with applications of already existing knowledge, he is asking for fundamentally new laws of nature.
Can progress be infinite? Are there really no limits to human knowledge? Isn't a belief in the "endless frontier" of science a belief as romantic as believing in God? John Horgan, the author of a provocative new book, The End of Science, tries to answer these cosmic questions by visiting celebrity scientists and recording their opinions. Horgan makes his bias clear from the outset: He believes that the scientific age is in its twilight, because we have already discovered all the major things about the world there is to know. Now, Horgan is no dope.
It seems there is a simple statement at the heart of this book: "We're not going to find anything as world-altering as General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, or Darwinian Evolution in the future. In support of a daring postulate, certain to enrage a myriad of scientists, the author harvested a cohort of interesting interviews that provide interesting perspectives. John Horgan. As a staff writer for Scientific American, John Horgan has a window on contemporary science unsurpassed in all the world. Wilson, with the freedom to probe their innermost thoughts?
One of the coolest—and most stressful--moments of my career took place November 7, , when I was a staff writer for Scientific American. That evening, the New York Academy of Sciences sponsored a "Sneak Preview of Science in the 21st Century" featuring a panel of seven scientific luminaries. I had interviewed four of the panelists--cosmologist James Peebles, physicist Edward Witten, and biologists Lynn Margulis and Stephen Jay Gould--for my book The End of Science , which had stirred up a ruckus after its publication five months earlier. I was in my office hacking away at an article when I looked at my watch and realized the "Sneak Preview" had started. I ran all the way from Scientific American 's headquarters in midtown Manhattan to the N. Academy's upper-east-side townhouse. I burst into the jam-packed meeting room just as an audience member, Trudy Bell, a reporter and former colleague of mine at the engineering journal IEEE Spectrum , stood and said: "I can't resist asking such a distinguished panel your opinion about John Horgan's argument in The End of Science.