Chris, a long time reader of this blog, took up my request to readers to write a review of my book after reading it and because he captured so well some of the things that I was trying to say, I am reproducing it here.
I enjoyed this book. It provided a useful framework for thinking about and discussing science as it affects our daily lives. The later chapters added a philosophical perspective I had not anticipated.
I liked the Tree of Science metaphor and selected quotes from the Bible scattered throughout the book. At one time religion had a more active interest in the answers to scientific questions. When along the Tree of Science would you propose that the Last Common Universal Ancestor of science and religion existed?
The case study on the age of the earth was very interesting, and perhaps my favorite part of the book. I had no idea that the accepted value varied so widely over time and that the eventual convergence at 4.54 billion years was the result of a multidisciplinary approach that gradually filled in a complete picture from seemingly disparate data points. This networked approach made me think of a spider web where each link is interconnected and dependent on the links around it. At the same time, weak portions of the web can be rebuilt in situ without the entire web collapsing.
It also was interesting to read about the life cycles of various theories and in particular how they can still be useful even when superseded by something better, as in the case of Newton’s laws of motion.
The parts of the book that dealt with science deniers and misinformation seem acutely relevant during the pandemic crisis. I noticed many of the types of bad-faith arguments used to try to discredit science that were discussed are being brandished about in the media almost constantly. I am hopeful that now I will be in a better position to argue that the conclusions of experts can be trusted because they are the result of a robust system that is constantly revising itself from within.
I hope other blog readers will buy the book and then write their own reviews and post them here and on the many websites that allow for readers to post reviews.