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La fine della scienza by John Horgan

La fine della scienza (original 1996; edition 1998)

by John Horgan

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Title:La fine della scienza
Authors:John Horgan (Author)
Info:Adelphi (1998), Perfect Paperback
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The End Of Science: Facing The Limits Of Knowledge In The Twilight Of The Scientific Age by John Horgan (1996)



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In support of a daring postulate, certain to enrage a myriad of scientists, the author harvested a cohort of interesting interviews that provide interesting perspectives. Given what’s at stake, one would have expected little support for such a subjective and aggressive proposition, but pessimists will be delighted to discover that they are in good company. ( )
  bruneau | Nov 27, 2009 |
The end of science, or the Star Trek Factor?

In “The end of science” John Horgan is pursuing provocative questions.
Has science been entered an era of diminishing returns?
Is physics moving towards absolute truth?
Would be able physicists to prove a final theory in the same way that mathematicians prove theorems?

John Horgan’s thesis is that we are coming to an era where all the fundamental scientific theories have been discovered and science as we know it today is coming altogether in an end. Horgan considers fundamental, theories such as Darwin’s natural selection, Einstein’s general relativity and quantum electrodynamics. That means theories that can apply, to the best of our knowledge, throughout the entire universe at all times since its birth.

In order to prove his thesis, Horgan has interviewed interesting scientists and philosophers from the entire scientific and social-philosophical landscape. Roger Penrose, Noam Chomsky, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, Freeman Dyson, Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Popper, David Bohm, Edward Wilson, John Wheeler, Lynn Margulis, Andrei Linde, Daniel Dennet and many others.

I must say that I disagree with Horgan’s argument and I find his view very shortsighted. Horgan is not the first or the last person to argue over the-end-of-science-era. At the end of the nineteen century, physicists also thought they knew everything. But only two decades later Einstein and other physicists discovered relativity theory and quantum mechanics. These theories transformed physics and opened up vast new vistas for modern physics and other branches of science.

The end-of-science argument and timing (millennium and link with Fucuyama’s End of History) have caused wide-range and “confusing” reactions and responses form science critics, scientists themselves, and even from Clinton’s Science Advisor who publicly repudiated Horgan’s argument. We can safely say that it is a discussion/debate that still goes on.

In my personal opinion the value of the book is not in the message and if we are/ or not denouncing it. Horgan is a science journalist with an education in literature. I think, his background makes the difference in the way he writes about science. With his prose style, he manages to fill gaps that other science writers fail to do, and make scientific writing an interesting adventure. He has the gift not only to make scientific theories understandable for the non-scientists readers but also to reveal beautifully his interviewee’s personalities. These interviews, the presentation of scientists as human beings, are the most interesting insight for me in the book.

Reading the book I had the feeling that Horgan tried to construct a psychological and ideological profile of each one person and it was fascinating to “discover” the eccentricities of the scientists who invented?/developed? some of the most interesting scientific and philosophical theories in the 20th century.

As for the end of science? As a scientist I am optimistic. The best in science are still to come. But my view (as a Star Trek fun) is possibly distorted by what Horgan call in his book (p.244-245) the Star Trek factor.

“How can science be approaching a culmination when we haven’t invented spaceships that travel at warp speed yet?” ( )
1 vote The_Nomadic_Reader | Dec 31, 2008 |
The most interesting insights for me here are into the scientists and philosophers themselves as human beings - I value this as psychological information which helps shed light on their thinking. He gives us many seemingly inconsequential details about individual scientist's behaviour and traits which I find fascinating in building up an impression of the people they were (many have since died). When it comes to reasoning however, Horgan reveals he's no philosopher, making some basic errors in respect of (for example) Karl Popper's thinking. I highly recommend Horgan as a science writer, he seems to be able to cut through the crap as few others do (see for example how he strips the hype from Edelman's pronouncements). What I'm not clear about though is the true nature of his central argument - he says that science will continue in an 'ironic' mode - to me he could be saying that we'll realize that knowledge is ultimately subjective - in which case I'm with him. If he's saying that the limits of knowledge have been reached then I disagree. ( )
  abraxalito | Aug 27, 2008 |
Showing 3 of 3
_The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age_ (1996) by John Horgan is an interesting analysis and series of interviews of prominent scientists in all major fields arguing that in fact science is reaching its endpoint. Horgan maintains that in most fields of endeavor the great discoveries of pure science have already been accomplished and that this means that pure science may be reaching an endpoint. Horgan considers the history and philosophy of science, showing various alternative interpretations of the scientific method as well as arguments against science. Horgan then interviews prominent scientists in major fields and shows how he believes that they have reached dead ends in which the benefits of further research will be outstripped by the costs. Horgan considers scientists to be practicing a new form of science which he refers to as “ironic science” more akin to literary criticism. Horgan maintains that science seeks the Answer which can only be found through mystical experience.

The book includes the following chapters -

Introduction: Searching for the Answer - Horgan considers his experiences with Roger Penrose who proposed a radical theory to account for human consciousness and relates this to literary criticism. Horgan considers the difference between science and literary criticism but notes that the two merge in what he refers to as ironic science.

The End of Progress - Horgan maintains that science might be ending because it has worked too well. Horgan considers the theories of Gunther Stent who maintained that science might one day come to an end and that individuals would engage in other pursuits after science had brought about a new golden age. Horgan explains the idea of progress and how while science has made possible progress it has also led to an impasse from which it cannot break.

The Rest of the Book is devoted to detailing the influence of science in various areas of specialization and argues that in all fields science is reaching an end and being replaced by ironic science.
The chapter titles are -

The End of Philosophy.
The End of Physics.
The End of Cosmology.
The End of Evolutionary Biology.
The End of Social Science.
The End of Neuroscience.
The End of Chaoplexity.
The End of Limitology.
Scientific Theology, or The End of Machine Science.
Epilogue: The Terror of God.

Horgan concludes by showing a mystical experience he encountered and considers the Church of the Holy Terror as the answer to the ultimate question.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553061747, Paperback)

In a series of interviews with luminaries of modern science, Scientific American senior editor John Horgan conducted a guided tour of the scientific world and where it might be headed in The End of Science. The book, which generated great controversy and became a bestseller, now appears in paperback with a new afterword by the author. Through a series of essays in which he visits with such figures as Roger Penrose, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Freeman Dyson, and others, Horgan captures the distinct personalities of his subjects while investigating whether science may indeed be reaching its end. While this book is in no way dumbed down, it is accessible and can take the general reader to the outer edges of scientific exploration.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

As a staff writer for Scientific American, John Horgan has a window on contemporary science unsurpassed in all the world. Who else routinely interviews the likes of Lynn Margulis, Roger Penrose, Francis Crick, Richard Dawkins, Freeman Dyson, Murray Gell-Mann, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn, Chris Langton, Karl Popper, Steven Weinberg, and E. O. Wilson, with the freedom to probe their innermost thoughts? This is the secret fear that Horgan pursues throughout this remarkable book: Have the big questions all been answered? Has all the knowledge worth pursuing become known? Will there be a final "theory of everything" that signals the end? Is the age of great discoveries behind us? Is science today reduced to mere puzzle solving and adding details to existing theories? Scientists have always set themselves apart from other scholars in the belief that they do not construct the truth, they discover it. Their work is not interpretation but simple revelation of what exists in the empirical universe. But science itself keeps imposing limits on its own power. Special relativity prohibits the transmission of matter or information at speeds faster than that of light; quantum mechanics dictates uncertainty; and chaos theory confirms the impossibility of complete prediction. Meanwhile, the very idea of scientific rationality is under fire from Neo-Luddites, animal-rights activists, religious fundamentalists, and New Agers alike. As Horgan makes clear, perhaps the greatest threat to science may come from losing its special place in the hierarchy of disciplines, being reduced to something more akin to literary criticism as more and more theoreticians engage in the theory twiddling he calls "ironic science." Still, while Horgan offers his critique, grounded in the thinking of the world's leading researchers, he offers homage, too. If science is ending, he maintains, it is only because it has done its work so well.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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