The Blind Spot: Science and the Crisis of Uncertainty

William Byers, Princeton Univ., $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-691-14684-3
Science has been under siege during the last quarter century, first by critics who charge that science itself is a cultural construct and that scientists import their own belief systems into their research. Retired math professor Byers (How Mathematicians Think) argues that much of the problem lies in what he calls the "science of certainty," "in which the need for certainty, power, and control are dominant." Instead, Byers says, scientists need to recognize "uncertainty, incompleteness, and ambiguity, the ungraspable, the blind spot, or the limits to reason." These blind spots are embedded in the scientific method, because the world itself is ambiguous and cannot be seen clearly. Scientists ignore this at their peril. Ancient Greek mathematics, for instance, suffered from a refusal to accept the ambiguous concept of the square root of 2. Byers parses his subject methodically, although his dense subject and style may appeal more to students of the philosophy of science than average science buffs. Star Trek's Spock probably best summed up the fallacy of scientific certainty: "Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end." 5 b&w illus. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/14/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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