THE THIRD CULTURE by John Brockman


Beyond the Scientific Revolution


 A smîrgasbord for armchair intellectuals. Recalling C.P. Snow, Brockman declares the old ``two culture'' split to be dead. Time was when arts and humanities academics could live in blissful ignorance of the second law of thermodynamics while scoffing at scientists and engineers as no-nothing nerds. No more. According to Brockman (coeditor of How Things Are, p. 282, etc.), literary intellectuals are taking a back seat; their voice is muted by what Snow himself hoped would be spokesmen for a third culture. That culture has arrived, Brockman says, in the stylish writings of Stephen Hawking, Stephen Jay Gould, and others, whose books make the best-seller lists, apparently having created readers eager for their latest views on matter, humankind, the universe, and such avant-garde fields as artificial intelligence and complexity. To prove his point, Brockman has taped and edited his favorite authors, along with short takes in which other ``third culture'' heroes (only one woman included) comment on a particular doyen. (These are refreshingly frank, including ``I really don't understand X,'' or ``Murray has developed one of the best inventories of put-downs that exists''--Marvin Minsky on Murray Gell-Mann. For evolution Brockman taped George Williams, Gould, Richard Dawkins, Niles Eldredge, and Lynn Margulis, among others. For A.I./brain-mind studies he has included Minsky, Daniel C. Dennett, Nicholas Humphrey; for cosmology, Martin Rees, Alan Guth, Paul Davies, and Lee Smolin. He concludes with some of the high- stepping speculations of complexity thinkers nurtured by Gell-Mann. This is a taste of stimulating minds speaking frankly about what they're doing and how they arrived at where they're at. Because rival theories and friendly and not-so-friendly enemies abound in the pages, it is also an honest picture of science in the making.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-80359-3
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995


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