Currently reading: The Meaning of Science

An intro­duc­to­ry book can be a tricky cus­tomer: either too light on con­tent to do any­thing more than whet the appetite, or weighed down with so much con­tent that it becomes an unread­able fact sheet. Time Lewens has steered the nar­row mid­dle way through the two, part­ly by split­ting The Mean­ing of Sci­ence into two parts. The first intro­duces the read­er to the key facts, his­tor­i­cal fig­ures and back­ground of the phi­los­o­phy of sci­ence and the sec­ond part takes them out for a walk, to show how the knowl­edge he’s explain­ing effects some inter­est­ing area of sci­ence.

Lewens argues per­sua­sive­ly why you’d want to under­stand the phi­los­o­phy behind sci­ence and arms the read­er with enough knowl­edge to head off and find out more — espe­cial­ly helped by the Fur­ther Read­ing lists at the end of each sec­tion. The facts are wrapped into inter­est­ing nar­ra­tives and argu­ments, which left me feel­ing enthu­si­as­tic about find­ing out more rather than worn out by try­ing to get a grasp of new facts, ter­mi­nol­o­gy and con­cepts. And my copy is now bristling with post-its, dog-eared pages and pen­ciled notes. Nor­mal­ly I’m not one to deface a book, but some­thing about the Pelican’s calls for a more hands on read­ing expe­ri­ence. Cer­tain­ly after being car­ried around in a hand­bag for a few weeks it gets rather worn look­ing — the love­ly uncoat­ed cov­er picks up scuff and smudges and the cor­ners are quick­ly worn down. But it’s a tac­tile pock­et sized book that seems meant to be read thor­ough­ly and used, not just admired. The scuffs prove that it’s no just on the shelf for show.

Now that I’m in the final chap­ter of the book, I’m hop­ing that Lewens is work­ing on anoth­er acces­si­ble sci­ence book that con­tin­ues on from The Mean­ing of Sci­ence. Either to go into more depth of the phi­los­o­phy — for it did feel like quite a con­cise intro­duc­tion to a large top­ic — or to bring his very lucid and bal­anced approach to oth­er con­tentious areas of mod­ern sci­ence. How­ev­er first I’m going to be off to find my next Pel­i­can.