What I'm Reading
By Arnold Kling
I’ve only started The Blind Spot, by William Byers. It is a book on science in our culture. From the preface, p. ix:
I emphasize that I am not condemning science and technology as a whole, nor am I ignorant of the many benefits that science has conferred upon the world. The problem lies not with science but with the point of view that I call the “science of certainty,” a particular approach to science in which the need for certainty, power, and control are dominant.
He will go on to say that science is properly understood as an awkward mixture of this science of certainty with a science of wonder, with the latter embracing doubt, curiosity, and creativity. I believe he will say that the public image of science is too fixed on the science of certainty. This made me think that raising the status of scientists could be a bad thing–if it serves only to raise the status of the science of certainty.
I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book, although I fear being disappointed. I will keep you posted. I have been staying out of the “is economics a science?” issue that has recently captivated many bloggers, but perhaps this book will pull me into it.
For sentences that express the science of certainty, I recently came across Bruce Parker.
Prediction is the very essence of science. We judge the correctness a scientifictheory by its ability to predict specific events. And from a more real-world practical point of view, the primary purpose of science itself is to achieve a prediction capability which will give us some control over our lives and some protection from the environment around us. To avoid the dangers of the world we must be able to predict where and especially when they will happen.
He wants more money to go to scientific research that can be used to predict natural disasters. The Blind Spot will not necessarily contradict that proposal, but I expect it will be more nuanced.