THE CREATIVE MOMENT: How Science Made Itself Alien to Modern Culture by Joseph Schwartz

THE CREATIVE MOMENT: How Science Made Itself Alien to Modern Culture

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Former physics professor Schwartz offers a captivating history of the progressive alienation between Western culture and its scientists--an unnatural split that, he says, can be blamed for, among other things, modern technological disasters, cultural malaise, and the physics-propelled cold war. There was a time, Schwartz writes, when the pursuit of science meant the exploration of humanity's relationship to the natural world. This golden age, when experiments could be (and were) replicated and discussed by practically any educated person, and when theories were inspired by experience rather than the other way around, is now long gone. Beginning with Galileo, who attempted to avoid excommunication by veiling his heretical theories behind the baffling language of mathematics, and continuing in England, where Newton and other Royal Society members retreated behind a wall of intentional mystification to avoid political censure, science has become nearly incomprehensible to almost everyone--including, in some instances, scientists themselves. Schwartz also argues that 20th-century industrialization, economic disasters, and war have led the middle class to turn its back on the once-abundant fruits of science--an act that has encouraged the discipline to grow increasingly compartmentalized and self-referential In this atmosphere of mutual alienation between science and culture, nuclear physicists failed to make a timely connection between their work on the atom bomb and the cold war that would inevitably result; Einstein's easily comprehensible and culturally significant theories were eclipsed by a quasi-mystical worship of his personal genius; the absence of meaningful interaction between the designers of technology and its users led to the Challenger disaster and deaths in industry; unexamined scientific prejudice may have obscured the real causes of cancer and AIDS; and theoretical scientists' increasing dependence on esoteric mathematics has led to an arcane physics of quarks and string theory that offers little to benefit mankind. An original and highly stimulating argument in favor of bringing science and scientists back down to earth.

Pub Date: May 6th, 1992
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: HarperCollins