The American Journal of Physics has just posted a very favorable review of my book The Great Paradox Of Science. This is important because that journal reaches a significant portion of my target audience, those scientists who have broader interests outside their sub-speciality. You can read the full review here but below is an extract.
The book … is a deep and thoughtful attack on the fundamental issue of how science works. I use the word “attack” deliberately, for the central theme of his book is a devaluation of the concept of truth. As he puts it in his closing words (emphasis in the original),
Truth and correspondence with reality are unnecessary as explanatory concepts in science and …. we can regard them as irrelevant and can comfortably dispense with them as no longer serving any useful purpose.
These are fighting words indeed, and they require the persuasive support of the careful and detailed arguments that form the bulk of this valuable book. The writing is clear and direct and is tailored to an audience that does not necessarily have any science training.
The core of the book’s argument comes with a further tree metaphor, the “Tree of Science,” in which the branches at each level represent different possibilities for all of scientific knowledge at a particular time. As time passes, the different branches fork to produce more and more possible assemblies of knowledge and concepts. The key idea is that all these branches have equal validity, and so there is no unique pathway, and thus no unique scientific truth. We happen to have followed one particular route among the many paths not taken. This novel proposition is in contrast to the commonly prevailing opinion that there is a single correct view of how the universe works, and that although we can never reach the goal of complete understanding, science is making steady progress towards a better and better grasp of the total picture. The traditional view has the tree upside down with disparate views gradually merging on their way to a more complete understanding.
Singham’s final chapter persuasively elaborates his thesis that there is no unique scientific truth. He may not succeed in persuading all of us that the Holy Grail we have been seeking is only a chimera, but we will all be stimulated to question our assumptions in many ways as he leads us on his journey. He deserves our whole-hearted thanks for challenging us to confront our previous assumptions, and for doing so by means of such a thoroughly enjoyable and readable book.
I hope that this review will encourage those who have not already done so to buy and read the book.