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Scientific advances have transformed the world. However, science can sometimes get things wrong, and at times, disastrously so. Understanding the basis for scientific claims and judging how much confidence we should place in them is essential for individual choice, societal debates, and development of public policy and laws. We must ask: what is the basis of scientific claims? How much confidence should we put in them? What is defined as science and what is not? This book synthesizes a working definition of science and its properties, as explained through the eyes of a practicing scientist, by integrating advances from philosophy, psychology, history, sociology, and anthropology into a holistic view. Crucial in our political climate, the book fights the myths of science often portrayed to the public. Written for a general audience, it also enables students to better grasp methodologies and helps professional scientists to articulate what they do and why.Read more
- Translates science into lay terms, allowing a broad audience to gain an accurate understanding of the inner workings of scientific fields and debates
- Discusses a topic highly relevant to our current political climates, helping readers to distinguish between claims of 'fact' and actual evidence, and avoid being manipulated by pseudoscience
- Refrains from claims of the intellectual superiority of science – this book simply explains how science works from the building blocks up to its outward public communication
Reviews & endorsements
'We live in a world where the discoveries of well-done science are rapidly improving the lives of millions; but at the same time poorly done inquiry that fails to meet the foundational principles of science, even when carried out with all good intentions, can result in harmful false conclusions resulting in wasting of resources, bad results for individuals and bad public policy for nations. Dr Zimring has produced a marvelously cogent and eminently readable book that explains how to recognize good science and know when to question poor 'scientific' conclusions. Reading this book places scientists and non-scientists on the same playing field when discussing critical issues and making important decisions. I would feel much better going to the polls if every voter understood the lessons that Zimring effortlessly communicates.' Brian R. Smith, Yale University, ConnecticutSee more reviews
'The message of this extraordinary book is loud and clear: we need a better understanding of science. That it is written by a scientist - and aimed in part at a scientific audience - makes the message all the more credible … and urgent. Science may not be perfect, but it is the best hope we've got. Zimring has written an engaging and accessible book on the importance of digging beneath what we think we know about science.' Lee McIntyre, Boston University and author of The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience
'In his recent book, What Science Is and How It Really Works, University of Virginia Professor of Pathology James C. Zimring, aspired to answer those vital questions. He correctly recognizes that the process of science is woefully misunderstood by the general public and even by many scientists. Anchored with a keen grasp of philosophy, logic, and reason, Zimring attempted to resolve a variety of misconstructions.' Ross Pomeroy, RealClearScience (https://www.realclearscience.com)
'[Zimmering] asks important questions, such as: What are scientific 'facts'? How does science differ from non-science? And, how is a layperson to judge a claim that asserts it is 'scientific'? The special imprimatur given to the findings of science (the so-called Legend of Science) requires us to be able to evaluate its claims rationally and dispassionately, from the benefits of vaccines to the threats of climate change. The book's three parts are devoted, respectively, to scientific reasoning and logic; flaws that undermine natural human observation; and how scientific processes and methods seek to addresses those flaws. The author's goal is to assist nonscientists in assessing scientific claims while-perhaps more importantly-enabling scientists to defend science (by deconstructing the Legend).' N. Sadanand, Choice
‘I certainly wish I had read a book like Zimring’s when I started my graduate studies; this would have helped me avoid many of the mistakes I made … I recommend Zimring’s book for students who contemplate a career in science … Zimring says that science very much needs its fringe thinkers, although it often treats them badly. In conclusion, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, science is the worst way to understand the world except for all the other ways. What Science Is and How It Really Works gives lots of examples of how the scientific method has allowed the big brains of unpromising apes to understand the world better than we had any right to expect.’ Stanley A. Rice, The American Journal of Psychology
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- Date Published: September 2019
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781108701648
- length: 402 pages
- dimensions: 228 x 152 x 18 mm
- weight: 0.66kg
- contains: 10 b/w illus.
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
1. The knowledge problem, or what can we really 'know'?
2. Adding more building blocks of human reasoning to the knowledge problem
3. Holistic coherence in thinking, or describing a system of how humans reason and think
4. How scientific reasoning differs from other reasoning
5. Natural properties of a rule-governed world, or why scientists study certain types of things and not others
6. How human observation of the natural world can differ from what the world really is
7. Detection of patterns and associations, or how human perceptions and reasoning complicate understanding of real-world information
8. The association of ideas and causes, or how science figures out what causes what
9. Remedies that science uses to compensate for how humans tend to make errors
10. The analysis of a phantom apparition, or has science really been studied yet?
11. The societal factor, or how social dynamics affect science
12. A holistic world of scientific entities, or considering the forest and the trees together
13. Putting it all together to describe 'what science is and how it really works'.
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