Some people claim that evolution is "just a theory". Do you know what a scientific theory really is? Just a theory is an overview of the modern concepts of science. A clear understanding of the nature of science will enable you to distinguish science from pseudoscience (which illegitimately wraps itself in the mantle of science), and real social issues in science from the caricatures portrayed in postmodernist critiques. Prof. Ben-Ari’s style is light (even humorous) and easy to read, bringing the latest concepts of science to the general reader. Of particular interest is his analysis of the terminology of science (fact, law, proof, theory) in relation to the colloquial meaning of these terms. Between chapters are biographical vignettes of scientists — both familiar and unfamiliar — showing their common commitment to the enterprise of science, together with a diversity of backgrounds and personalities. This accessible, informative, and comprehensive work will give lay readers a good grasp of real science.
Enjoyable and informative
By Marjee - August 18, 2005
Ben-Ari has written a highly enjoyable book about the nature of science that reads quickly and easily. I strongly recommend this book for anyone involved with teaching science (that may be a professor, secondary, or elementary school teacher). The author takes the best, most sober points from philosophers, historians, and sociologists of science and demonstrates the implications these works have for preparing a scientifically literate public. He clarifies troublesome definitions such as "theory" "fact" "proof" and "hypothesis". His insights on falsification and the need for an understanding of statistics are dead-on. I am using this book in the post-secondary courses I teach.
Why only four stars? First, in his scientists' vignettes (where he uses biographical information on a scientist to illustrate a nature-of-science-point) are a rather homogenous bunch, for true excellence I would have to see more diverse group of scientists discussed. Secondly, his... read more
Thought-provoking and very readable
By fungo - September 23, 2009
A very good book, in most ways. It covers some familiar ground, but generally with a fresh perspective. One limitation is that it really does stick to the goal of answering that tiresome, bone-headed criticism of evolution as being "just a theory." Thus, much space is devoted to hammering home the definition of the word "theory." But this explanation does range through many interesting examples, and is always readable.
Where I part company with the author is in his closing statements, to the effect that most of what there is to be discovered has already been discovered. (I paraphrase, badly.) I believe that Ben-Ari underestimates the quantity of what we do not yet know, as well as the potential impact of numerous breakthroughs that can already be foreseen. Of course, that's all speculation, and Ben-Ari's take is at least stimulating.
In short, a quick, entertaining, worthwhile read.
An Easy and Enjoyable Introduction to Philosophy of Science
By Irfan A. Alvi - September 10, 2008
The majority of books on philosophy of science are written by philosophers, and they tend to get into a lot of hair splitting, often with drawn out arguments and counterarguments. While this rigor is necessary to convey the full subleties and complexities of the subject, it can also test a reader's patience, obscure key points, and become so overwhelming for beginners that many will abandon the subject as too muddled or too useless (or both!).
Ben-Ari's book is refreshing in that it provides an introduction to philosophy of science which cuts to the chase and is easy and enjoyable to read, and therefore ideal for beginners. A further plus is that the author is a computer scientist with an impressive grasp of a diverse range of sciences, and the illustrative examples in the book are correspondingly diverse.
Ben-Ari has an evident pro-science bias, and thus tends to somewhat downplay arguments which reveal the limitations and confusions of science, but I still... read more
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