UNCOMMON SENSE by Alan Cromer

UNCOMMON SENSE

The Heretical Nature of Science
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Cromer (Physics/Northeastern) advances several agendas in this provocative, polemical work. For starters, he asserts that science isn't an inevitable development in advanced cultures. Rather, he sees most people at most times stuck in the egocentric/magical world that Piaget described as central to the early developmental stages of childhood. Had it not been for the Greeks--with their democratic penchant for dialogue and debate--and the brilliance of Euclid, Archimedes, et al. (but not Aristotle), we might still be animists or dependent on religious prophets for our cosmology and cosmogony. The author contends that it was the rebirth of Greek science in the Renaissance, combined with the age of exploration and the invention of movable type, that created today's world dominated by science and technology. We've arrived at a stage where we can talk about the completeness of science and, based on probabilities and calculations, Cromer concludes that there's no point in seeking extraterrestrial intelligence or dreaming of intergalactic travel. Moreover, if we're to improve the world, we'd better do something about our schools: Instead of making them substitutes for home, as well as vehicles for social policies, we need to incorporate dynamic hands-on science programs, pouring our resources into the eighth and ninth grades and eliminating the last two years of high school. Wow. Clearly he who credits the Greeks for the spirit of debate will himself invite debate. What of the history of technology...mathematics...inductive proofs...the (Indian) invention of zero? As for the completeness of science, that's what they said in 1900...and said again in the early days of the genetic code. Overall, then, a generous helping of hubris here--but not without redeeming insights on good and bad science, as well as examples of Cromer's own work in reforming middle-school science curricula. (Nineteen line drawings)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-508213-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993