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March 27 , 2008

Real Science


Scientists and 'anti-scientists' alike need a more realistic image of science. The traditional mode of research, academic science, is not just a 'method': it is a distinctive culture, whose members win esteem and employment by making public their findings. Fierce competition for credibility is strictly regulated by established practices such as peer review. Highly specialized international communities of independent experts form spontaneously and generate the type of knowledge we call 'scientific' - systematic, theoretical, empirically-tested, quantitative, and so on. Ziman shows that these familiar 'philosophical' features of scientific knowledge are inseparable from the ordinary cognitive capabilities and peculiar social relationships of its producers. This wide-angled close-up of the natural and human sciences recognizes their unique value, whilst revealing the limits of their rationality, reliability, and universal applicability. It also shows how, for better or worse, the new'post-academic' research culture of teamwork, accountability, etc. is changing these supposedly eternal philosophical characteristics.

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