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Science Talk

Science Talk: Changing Notions of Science in American Culture

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    Science Talk
    Book Description:

    Discoveries in the sciences are occurring constantly contributing to the changing defeition of the term "science" itself. Daniel Patrick Thurs examines what these controversies say about how we understand science now and in the future. Drawing on his analysis of magazines, newspapers, journals and other forms of public discourse, Thurs describes how science-originally used as a synonym for general knowledge-became a term to distinguish particular subjects as elite forms of study accessible only to the highly educated.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4152-5
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Talking about Science
    (pp. 1-21)

    Modern science seems to suffer from a paradox. Numerous observers have noted “the awesome authority that science possesses” in the western world.¹ Sociologists Barry Barnes and David Edge have claimed that “in modern societies, science is next to beingthesource of cognitive authority.”² Simply labeling a piece of information scientific has often commanded attention and respect, if not assent. Science has, by most accounts, become an especially powerful incantation in American popular culture, even to the point of inspiring supposedly “childlike faith.”³ As early as the 1920s, journalist Frederick Lewis Allen claimed that in the minds of the “man...

  5. Chapter 1 Phrenology: A Science for Everyone
    (pp. 22-52)

    In 1839, nelson sizer set out to help phrenologize the nation. He had been reading about phrenology on his own for years when a neighbor invited him to join in giving a public lecture on the subject. From that first experience, he was hooked. In his memoirs, Sizer recalled the “solemn dignity” of the lecture and the way his more experienced neighbor “tried to bear himself as if he were preaching a sermon.” For the next forty years, Sizer devoted himself to advancing the cause of phrenological doctrine. He became a traveling lecturer, wandering from New England to Virginia in...

  6. Chapter 2 Evolution: Struggling over Science
    (pp. 53-89)

    In an 1872 issue of a magazine calledOld and New,the Reverend George Axford recounted his discussions with a former schoolteacher named Mary Alden. Alden was struggling with reconciling her religious convictions and recent scientific developments, particularly evolution. Axford, himself interested in the latest science, sought to comfort her through a variety of means. He explained that religious faith had been purified by each new discovery about nature; yet there remained as much real evidence for the existence of God as for the existence of light. He also compared the seemingly deterministic elements of Darwinian evolution to those of...

  7. Chapter 3 Relativity: A Science Set Apart
    (pp. 90-122)

    In early 1930, news of a riot in New York City circulated widely. That was, perhaps in itself, not particularly noteworthy. But this riot occurred at the American Museum of Natural History. And, more unusual still, it began when several thousand “men, women and children” tried to get into a small theater where a film explaining Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity was going to be shown.¹ In fact, the “mob” was actually a gathering organized by the Amateur Astronomers’ Association of New York. Police had been called, said the Association’s treasurer in a letter to theNew York Times,not...

  8. Chapter 4 UFOs: In the Shadow of Science
    (pp. 123-158)

    In 1969, physicist edward Condon denounced the spread of what he called “Scientific Pornography.” From 1966 to 1968, he had led a University of Colorado effort, on behalf of the United States Air Force, to study unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Over that period of time, Condon became a highly visible and outspoken crusader against not only flying saucers but all things “pseudo-scientific.” In his view, publishers going after a profit often distorted science, printing, promoting, and selling “pseudo-science magazine articles and paper back books” by the tens of thousands and even millions. He was particularly concerned about impressionable youngsters. In...

  9. Chapter 5 Intelligent Design: The Evolution of Science Talk
    (pp. 159-184)

    During the summer and fall of 2005, the meaning of science became a topic of intense public controversy in America’s heartland. That controversy began when, in order to introduce more “objectivity” in the teaching of Darwinian evolution, several Kansas school board members proposed revising the definition of science in state education standards.¹ Rather than follow the previous standards in stressing the restriction of scientific knowledge to purely natural explanations of the world, the new version focused on the methodological aspects of science, including “observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument, and theory-building.”² The difference was subtle but it was enough...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 185-224)
  11. Index
    (pp. 225-238)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-240)