Friday, May 6, 2016

The Invention of Science by David Wootton

THE INVENTION OF SCIENCE by David Wootton explores the origins of critical thinking and the concept of discovery. The very idea of discovering something new was, surprisingly, little known to sailors and politicians prior to Columbus. It is hard to imagine now exactly how, due to superstition and religious dogma, so very few people in the “dark ages” and beyond conceived—much less experimented—with elements of the natural world, with mathematics, or with abstract concepts. Historian David Wootton, a professor at the University of York, has here explained how it really was, and what has come to be since. The Scientific Revolution was the greatest revolution, he says, because it transformed mankind (or much of it, anyway) from willful ignorance into a better understanding of our relationship with nature. Galileo, Copernicus, Brahe, Newton, Einstein: these men (among others) paved the way, not just to our current technology, but to the very concept of facts, theories, progress, and explanations. Abstract thought was one of the tools used, along with geometry, that led to physics, as Einstein said, “My pen and I are greater than I alone.” This audiobook, read by actor James Langton, is a fascinating overview that gives the listener perspective on why science is important, and how it has infinite reach (to borrow a phrase from an earlier audiobook, THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY.) Being more accessible to the layman than David Deutsch’s masterpiece, Wootton's and Deutsch's books are both highly recommended for anyone wishing to refute bad philosophy and bad science with carefully reasoned logic. For most of recorded history mankind has struggled with conflicting beliefs, which in the present has led to much suffering as people get their identity from those beliefs and fight to force them onto others. “To err is human,” though, and so no one has ever been immune from fallacy, delusion, or ego. Curiosity is key to progress out of the morass, because if one is not curious enough to discover the truth, the problems remain and endlessly repeat. Yet these authors are optimistic because progress has always trumped ignorance wherever it has been applied. AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. 

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