Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library


Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In his final book, Gould offers a surprising and nuanced study of the complex relationship between our two great ways of knowing: science and the humanities, twin realms of knowledge that have been divided against each other for far too long.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06340-2
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology, History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. A Note to the Reader
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. PREFACE: Introducing the Protagonists
    (pp. 1-8)
  5. I. The Rite and Rights of a Separating Spring

    • 1 Newton’s Light
      (pp. 11-20)

      The epitaph czar of westminster abbey must have demurred, for the great man’s grave does not bear these intended words. But Alexander Pope did write a memorable (and technically even heroic) couplet for the tombstone of his most illustrious contemporary. Biblical parodies, perhaps, could not pass muster in Britain’s holiest of holies, both sacred and secular,* for Pope’s epitome of a life well lived recalled the first overt order of the ultimate boss:

      Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night:

      God said, let Newton be! and all was light.

      Pope surely wins first prize for succinctness and rhyme, but...

    • 2 Scientific “World-Making” and Critical Braking
      (pp. 21-33)

      Perhaps there shall not always be an england, but this island nation does flaunt some impressive examples of stability—an attribute greatly fostered by the arresting fact that no full-scale invasion by foreign forces has overrun the country since 1066. The Oxbridge universities provide several striking examples, including New College, Oxford, named for its inception in 1379 as an upstart among older segments of the university. Similarly, several named chairs have continued for centuries. Stephen Hawking, for example, now serves as Lucasian professor of mathematics, the same chair and title held by Isaac Newton. Cambridge also continues to maintain the...

    • 3 So Noble an Hecatombe: The Weight of Humanism
      (pp. 34-47)

      The peculiar notion that science utilizes pure and unbiased observation as the only and ultimate method for discovering nature’s truth, operates as the foundational (and, I would argue, rather pernicious) myth of my profession. Scientists could not so approach the world even if we justly so desired—for, as the distinguished philosopher of science N. R. Hanson once remarked, “the cloven hoofprint of theory” necessarily intrudes upon any scheme of observation. So must it be, and so should it be—for how could we ever discern a pattern, or see anything coherent, amid an infinitude of potential perceptions, unless we...

    • 4 The Mandate of Magister Medice: The Threat of Suppression
      (pp. 48-66)

      In controverting the renaissance program for recovering the wisdom of Antiquity, rather than winning novel insights and explanations by observation and experiment, the initiators of the Scientific Revolution worked to clear away the passive impedimenta of old beliefs. Breaking through the inertia of ages is no easy task, for incumbency brings enormous advantages both in politics and intellectual life. But active suppression poses far more serious problems, including actual danger to life and limb—and the avatars of the Scientific Revolution also faced (or at least often thought they faced, leading to a psychological burden that should not be underestimated,...

  6. II. From Paradoxical Ages of Bacon to Swift Sweetness and Light

    • 5 The Dynasty of Dichotomy
      (pp. 69-112)

      In promoting the cause of new knowledge, won by observation and experiment under a basically mechanical view of natural causation, and in denying the Renaissance’s chief premise that scholarship would best advance by recovering the superior understanding achieved in Greece and Rome, the leaders of the Scientific Revolution popularized two metaphors with long pedigrees in Western literature. But these old sayings developed sharp edges in a quite conscious (and often virulently contentious) argument that swept through the intellectual world of seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century France and England, and entered the record of history as the debate between Ancients and Moderns.


    • 6 Reintegration in Triumphant Maturity
      (pp. 113-143)

      Yes, a time to break down and a time to build up. clearly we are now in the Preacher’s second stage (Ecclesiastes 3:3), and it strikes me as simply unseemly, not to mention unprofitable, to keep the demolition crew in high perks and wages when we ought to be hiring architects and masons. A confrontational attitude toward the contrary claims of Renaissance humanists justifiably characterized the initial rhetoric of modern science in its seventeenth-century infancy, as this new kid in town struggled to gain some ground in a grand game of intellectual mumblety-peg (a contest of universal boyhood, called “land”...

    • 7 Sweetness and Light as Tough and Healing Truth
      (pp. 144-152)

      To close this part of the book with a story from its beginning, I wish to return to the late-seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century debate between Ancients and Moderns, and give a last word to the “other” side. I discussed the best argument and healing hand of the scientific Moderns in presenting Bacon’s paradox about the old age (and consequent wisdom) of our present; and Newton’s aphorism, admitting the puny status of an infant called science by arguing that we can now see farther only because we stand upon the shoulders of Ancient giants. But I cannot cash out my argument for...

  7. III. A Saga of Pluribus and Unum:: The Power and Meaning of True Consilience

    • 8 The Fusions of Unum and the Benefits of Pluribus
      (pp. 155-188)

      My brief for the obliteration of harmful boundaries and mutual suspicion between science and the humanities includes two recommendations that may seem contradictory at first—but no more so than the official motto of our nation: E pluribus unum (one from many). We fought a civil war to keep our diverse themes together, to prove that one nation, strong and democratic, could include a full range of human and natural differences—ethnic, linguistic, climatic, economic, topographical—under a single canopy of mutual respect. So too for our disciplinary domains in a united realm of the human intellect, and especially for...

    • 9 The False Path of Reductionism and the Consilience of Equal Regard
      (pp. 189-260)

      Human sagas and primal tales often depict our deepest emotions and most practical needs as polar opposites that either dwell in tension within us or vie for domination as personified beings of the outside world (superheroes and villains of modern comic books as pop versions of ancient gods and devils, for example): kill for personal gain or sacrifice for national salvation; dance till death (shop till you drop), or study to blindness. As a scientist and natural historian, I especially feel the strong personal pull of opposition between an irreducible fascination (amounting to love) for every little detail of natural...

  8. EPILOG: A Closing Tale of Addition to Adagia by Erasure of Erasmus
    (pp. 261-265)

    As an essayist at heart, i have long believed that the best, indeed the only effective, discussions of deep generalities begin with intriguing little tidbits that catch a person’s interest and then lead naturally to a broad issue exemplified thereby. One simply cannot attack “the nature of truth” head-on, in full and abstract generality, without evoking either boredom or anger at authorial arrogance. But I just disobeyed my own precept by ending the main body of this book with an abstract defense for my version of consilience (versus Wilson’s opposite account) as a basic model of proper relationships between science...

  9. Index
    (pp. 266-273)