Don’t Miss a Thing

Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

Search Website
Reading List September 21, 2019

“Listen to the Science”

Are scientists more virtuous than the rest of us? Can religion and science be happily reconciled?

In her appearance before Congress this week, sixteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg submitted the most recent scientific report of the International Panel on Climate Change in lieu of a prepared statement. Much of the subsequent hearing involved discussion about why it’s important to “listen to the science.”

Our reading list this week takes that responsibility seriously, featuring pieces that reflect on the nature of science—from its conceptual and philosophical foundations to its social and political significance.

The philosopher of physics Tim Maudlin reconsiders conventional wisdom about correlation and causation, and reflects on the perennial attempt to reestablish the authority of reason and evidence—from quantum physics to Thomas Kuhn. Two historians of science, Michael Gordin and Steven Shapin, explore the inevitably political dimensions of the practice of science and the path by which scientific thinking came to accrue cultural and intellectual authority.

We also hear from scientists themselves. The biologist Anne-Fausto Sterling calls for a new era of citizen science in an era of dwindling funding and democratic engagement, and the computer scientist Michael Nielsen considers a new age of “networked science.” The climate scientist Kerry Emanuel sums up what we know about climate change, and from our deep archive, the biologist H. Allen Orr takes a close look at the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould’s arguments about the relation between science and religion.

6986632026_654cf71865_o
Tim Maudlin

Allured by the promise of Big Data, science has shortchanged causal explanation in favor of data-driven prediction. But ultimately we must ask why.

image
Michael D. Gordin

Many take the separation between science and politics for granted, but this view of science has its own political history: it was developed, in part, as an anti-communist tool of the Cold War.

aliceinwonderland
Tim Maudlin

Two new books—one on quantum physics, one on Thomas Kuhn—seek to reestablish the authority of reason and evidence.

Shapin---OUHOS-feature
Steven Shapin

Scientists have discarded the moral authority that previously accrued to their vocation.

PF3291_828358_h-feature
Anne Fausto-Sterling

Getting government grants for research is harder than ever. Our system is breaking down.

climatechange2
Kerry Emanuel

On the long and fraught history of the climate change debate.

288704126_456b3e8610_o
Michael Nielsen Lindsey Gilbert

Why discussion boards and online marketplaces can make it easier for scientists to pool their data and find far-flung collaborators.

Blake_God_Blessing
H. Allen Orr

Can religion and science be happily reconciled?

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

Boston Review is nonprofit and reader funded.

Contributions from readers enable us to provide a public space, free and open, for the discussion of ideas. Join this effort – become a supporting reader today.

Sign Up for Our
Newsletter

Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.

While we have you...

…we need your help. Confronting the many challenges of COVID-19—from the medical to the economic, the social to the political—demands all the moral and deliberative clarity we can muster. In Thinking in a Pandemic, we’ve organized the latest arguments from doctors and epidemiologists, philosophers and economists, legal scholars and historians, activists and citizens, as they think not just through this moment but beyond it. While much remains uncertain, Boston Review’s responsibility to public reason is sure. That’s why you’ll never see a paywall or ads. It also means that we rely on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, pledge your contribution to keep it free for everyone by making a tax-deductible donation.

Donate Today

Most Recent

Support us with a donation this giving season. 

Joshua Cohen Deborah Chasman

Robin D. G. Kelley on the midterm elections.

Robin D. G. Kelley Deborah Chasman

What we have achieved this year—and our plans for 2023. 

Rosie Gillies