In a new work that blends science, philosophy, and history, leading philosopher of science Michael Strevens answers challenging questions, showing how science came about only once thinkers stumbled upon the astonishing idea that scientific breakthroughs could be accomplished by breaking the rules of logical argument.
... provocative and fascinating ... mostly enthralled me, even as a couple of parts set my teeth on edge. But that’s just the nature of opinion and disputation, something that Strevens would surely understand, given his argument that opinion and disputation play an essential role in the scientific world ... Strevens’s book contains a number of surprises, including an elegant section on quantum mechanics that coolly demonstrates why it’s such an effective theory ... Strevens also has some pretty uncharitable things to say about the majority of working scientists, painting them as mostly uncreative drones ... He may well be right, but from a book about the history of science, I wanted more proof. Then again, The Knowledge Machine is ultimately a work of philosophy, and should be considered an ambitious thought experiment. Strevens builds on the work of philosophers like Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn to come up with his own original hypothesis about the advent of modern science and its formidable consequences.
... riveting ... Mr. Strevens doesn’t hide his light under a bushel ... Mr. Strevens sustains his polemical fireworks with a steady succession of examples drawn from the history of science ... worth reading for the quality of Mr. Strevens’s prose alone, his crystal-clear, unfussy sentences, the crisp metaphors and many excellent quips ... Despite the author’s enthusiasm for machinelike predictability, The Knowledge Machine is full of such surprises ... As a hard-nosed, wonderfully timely plea for taking science seriously, for allowing scientists to do their work without interference, The Knowledge Machine is unparalleled. But, as the sheer urgency of Mr. Strevens’s tone and his provocative descriptions also demonstrate, it’s difficult to write objectively about objectivity. Try as we might, we cannot ever fully separate the machine from the machinist, philosophy from the philosopher or, for that matter, science from the scientist.
Philosopher Strevens now enters the ring, writing accessibly and lucidly about this complex question ... Expanding his discussion to illuminate the work of contemporary scientists and today’s most urgent scientific issues, Strevens offers a bold, lively, and intriguing new perspective on science’s crucial devotion to facts and reason.