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The Meaning of Science by Tim Lewens

by Venky

Meaning of Science

In the introduction to his book, Tim Lewens provides a warming assurance to the reader that a knowledge of neither Science nor Philosophy is a pre-requisite for grasping the nuances contained within “The Meaning of Science”. However such an assurance is reneged upon in the very first Chapter when the author proceeds to provide a complicated overview of concepts such as Inference Induction, corroboration and falsificationism as elegantly elucidated by one of the greatest philosophers of all time – Karl Popper.

There is no denying or disputing the fact that “The Meaning of Science” is a provocative book that elicits a healthy amount of debate, deliberation and even skepticism. It challenges the very notion of Science as the fount of universal truth and attempts to pry open the lacunae and loopholes plaguing Science. Most importantly the book propounds the invaluable role played by Philosophy in supplementing and supplanting the contributions made by Science. Science and Philosophy are indispensable companions although seemingly incompatible bedfellows. In the course of reconciling these two divergent yet intersecting disciplines, Lewens asks the following thought inducing questions:

Does Economics have adequate credibility to position itself as a Science?
Is Intelligent Design’s claim to be a field of Science valid?
Is Homeopathy Science or a pseudoscience mired in quackery?

The aforementioned questions are proposed to be tackled using a variety of techniques such as the ones employed by the controversial philosopher Kuhn who pioneered the ‘Paradigm Paradigm’ concept which talks about scientific revolutions which displace long entrenched beliefs (termed exemplars). Thus Newton’s laws of gravity which were not only held sacrosanct but also enabled placing the first Man on the Moon were shaken, if not displaced by Einstein’s laws of general and special relativity. Similarly there have been innovative and ingenious challenges posed to Charles Darwin’s revolutionary theory of mutation by natural selection.

Lewens also touches upon the aspects of Capitalism and Altruism in his endeavour to find a bridge between Science and Philosophy. On the whole while the “Meaning of Science” strives to illuminate the importance of cleaving Science and Philosophy, its sometimes abstract and at other times obscure language leaves the reader more confused than enlightened.

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