Good Science Chapter Summaries | Good Science

Chapter 1 – Good Science in a Dark Age 

In the first chapter, I will focus on the relationship between revolutionary ideas and social change. During the past few hundred years, scientists, such as Galileo, have been among the most prolific producers of revolutionary ideas. Although scientific insights have often been controversial–and Galileo’s ideological struggles with the Catholic Church are the stuff of legend–the world has been transformed repeatedly due to the pursuit of increasingly truthful scientific paradigms.

Chapter 2 – Did Darwin Tell the Truth?

In Chapter Two, I examine Charles Darwin’s legendary achievements in the field of biology. Universally accepted as Darwin’s ideas may be among scientists, in the wider public, Darwin’s ideas remain controversial. Indeed, there are numerous critics who assert that Darwin’s ideas are misrepresentations. Drawing upon debates concerning the validity of evolutionary theory, I clarify the definition of scientific truth. In doing so, I emphasize the crucial role that truth plays in bringing about scientific progress as well as the evolution of reality. In the end, I conclude that, rather than impugning Darwin’s theory, the enduring controversies that evolution has inspired are actually the clearest and most emphatic indicator of the profound truths that Darwin revealed.

Chapter 3 – Good Science for Rebels

In Chapter Three, I examine the topic of objective truth. In the field of sociology, it has long been recognized that human perception tends to be distorted by a variety of social influences. Thus, I argue that the pursuit of truth involves more than an effort to observe subject matter objectively. Scientists must draw upon their capacity for agency to interrogate their perceptions of, and received understandings about social reality. In spite of such difficulties, I conclude that it remains possible to identify standards of truth that transcend the limitations of social, historical and ideological contexts. Furthermore, I will argue that people rely upon transcendent truth standards as a guide through everyday reality as well as a means to transform that reality.

Chapter 4 – The Sky is Not the Limit

In Chapter Four, I introduce the concept of problematics. Problematics can be understood as exceedingly challenging goals that require knowledge-seekers to invent new facts and, ultimately, to redefine reality in order to achieve their far-fetched objectives. As such, problematics represent a means through which to proactively challenge the paradigmatic intellectual constraints that tend to stymie constructive intellectual progress.

To illustrate the invaluable role that problematics can play in generating intentional intellectual progress, I will examine the space race that unfolded in the 1960s. By advocating the goal of a pre-1970 moon landing, JFK posed the US with a seemingly impossible problematic that ultimately enabled the US to redefine itself as a nation.

Chapter 5 – Revolutions in the Making

In Chapter Five, I examine a type of technology that still remains more the stuff of fantasy than reality: artificial intelligence. Is AI the most promising problematic of the twenty-first century? Does AI represent a realistic path to a great new frontier, or is AI simply a distraction: a phenomena borrowed from science fiction that has no real chance to alter the future or lived reality?

Chapter 6 – Brightening a Dark Universe

In Chapter Six, I review the legendary debate between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Although Einstein formulated many of the early breakthroughs that inspired quantum mechanics, Einstein was never willing to accept the lurch that Bohr and his associates took into subjectivity. Though it cost him his reputation among fellow physicists, Einstein insisted until the end of his days that an observer-independent reality existed, and it was the task of physics to study that reality.

Brilliant as he was, Einstein was undone again and again by the new physics that Bohr advocated. Though it defied reason, in every case experimental research has supported Bohr’s quantum mechanics and defied Einstein’s classical rationale. In spite of that, I argue that Einstein exemplified the finest qualities of a skeptical, dissenting good science  until the very end.

Chapter 7 – The Future is Problematic

In Chapter 7, I argue that although the future is problematic, that is not necessarily a cause for pessimism. Knowledge-seekers begin the problem-solving process at a point where they are not quite equal to the problem they wish to solve. However, as the problem-solving process unfolds, the status of the problem-solver viz. the problem du jour undergoes a transformation. In addition to generating a solution to a challenging intellectual problem, the problem-solving process also elevates the problem-solver’s intellectual capabilities.As a result, one can argue that solving problems helps humans accomplish more and better things than they ever could otherwise. Each solution introduces a new set of even more challenging problems. The advantage of the unending quest for scientific truth is that it elevates and inspires new thinking. New problems not only create opportunities to seek new truths, but they also make it possible to transform the substance of reality for the better.