Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Appleyard on science and certainty

was going to put together a post about writing about scientific process, but not got round to it...

meanwhile, as we like to be up to date round here, just caught up with Brian Appleyard's commentary on the meaning of popular science books in November - but still readable here.

It's an entertainingly argumentative piece, which is what they pay him for, though full of fairly gaping holes (as Appleyard's essays tend to be). f'rinstance, as the man fancies himself as not without philosophical acumen - he tells us how he chided Stephen Hawking for oversimplifying Witttgenstein, as you do - it is pretty daft to build his case by assuming there is some abstraction "science", which he identifies with popular science books by just three authors. He concludes on the basis of their books that science was "certain". Just because the Reverend Dawkins is sure of himself does not mean that "science" is, or was, I reckon. But then spotting spurious trends by being ridiculously selective from a complex universe of cases is what cultural commentary in what passes for the quality press is all about these days, I fear. The upside is that means it's a game everyone can play.