Book Review: The Workshop And The World

The Workshop And The World:  What Ten Thinkers Can Teach Us About Science And Authority, by Robert P. Crease

This author is a great hypocrite, and unfortunately not a very self-aware one.  It is hard to know exactly what this author is trying to accomplish in this book, because if the author is trying to encourage people who do not already agree with the author to give consensus science a great deal of cultural and political authority (particularly in questions about evolution and anthropogenic climate change), this book is not going to be very convincing.  Indeed, the book insults those who doubt the efficacy of vaccines, view intelligent design as more compelling than evolution, or who do not think that models about climate change are all that compelling as being either dupes of corporate shills or dishonest people who do not really disagree with the “truths” of the consensus view the author defends but seek political capital through expressing skepticism.  This considerably oversells the scientific value of the theories the author is unsuccessfully attempting to peddle and undersells the seriousness of doubts or their legitimacy, neither of which is ultimately helpful in providing the sort of pro-science support the author wants and demands but is unlikely to get from this flaming pile of nonsense.

This book is almost 300 pages long and is devoted to supporting the author’s biased and mistaken views on the legitimacy of scientific authority against questions and rival theories and interpretations as seen through the eyes of ten very slanted biographical essays divided into four periods.  After an introduction the author looks at Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis and praises Bacon’s love of the “new science” that seeks to carve out a place for science outside of religious authority while downplaying Bacon’s skeevy personal life or corruption (1), as well as giving the usual biased view of Galileo’s opposition to the Catholic view of science (2) and an equally biased view of the workshop thinking shown by the frequently mistaken Descartes (3).  After that the author turns to Vico and the problem of going mad rationally (4), as well as the hideous problems of scientific development explored by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein (5), and the harrowing picture of Compte’s positivist approach (6).  Three more essays look at the problem of authority and bureaucracy explored by Weber (7), the problem of science and patriotism explored in Kemel’s Turkey (8), and the cultural crisis of the West explored by Husserl (9), before closing with a call to action from Arendt’s writings (10) that equates those who deny evolution or climate change with Nazis, after which there is a conclusion, acknowledgements, notes, and index.

Indeed, the book is even worse than misguided, but shows the author attempting to abuse the cultural power of scientists or supporters of particular positions to silence and ridicule and even criminalize opposition.  While viewing any criticism of scientific arrogance and overreach as dishonest and feigned, and expressing a fear that science deniers (his oft-used club to beat others with) will use authoritarianism on poor defenseless and noble scientists just trying to defend the truth and enact wise policies in light of that supposed truth, the author shows himself to be as authoritarian and as nasty as any of the people this book condemns, like Hitler.  Few would-be authoritarians, after all, are as jesuitical as this particular one, who cannot even assume that his opponents are well-meaning and sincere, much less more right than he is about scientific questions he presumes are settled in favor of the author’s own views, rather very much in doubt.  Perhaps he ought to have reflected upon the erroneous views of past generations of scientific speculators and reflected on the poor philosophical base so much of his argumentation lies on, and perhaps he would not beclown himself as he does here.  But that would be a vain hope, as any author who was self-aware of the intellectual and moral poverty of his position would not write the way that this one does.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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