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Science and the Retreat from Reason


Paperback, 288 pages
ISBN: 0-85345-987-8
Released: January 1997

Science fascinates us, with popularizations of it regularly heading the bestseller lists, and more people feeling comfortable with the technological applications of science which surround us. Why is it then that in the late twentieth century, “back to nature” has replaced “progress through science” in the popular imagination?

What arouses concern is the interventionist character of science. In the past, putting the insights of science to work on “mastering nature” was thought to offer humanity an endless vista of progress. Today, nature and all things natural are more commonly glorified and the feats of the engineer—especially in the realm of biology—are considered meddlesome, if not dangerous. This anti-interventionist attitude is reinforced by influential interpretations of quantum mechanics, chaos and complexity theories. These interpretations suggest that human beings must concede to nature, and cannot even fathom—still less take genuine advantage of—its subtleties.

While providing a clear and intelligible introduction to key areas of modern scientific thought, Gillot and Kumar mount a challenge to the new orthodoxy. Science and the Retreat from Reason argues that it is loss of faith in progress that explains today’s loss of faith in science.


Introduction: The Sense of an End

  1. The Post-War Loss of Certainty
  2. Belittling Humanity
  3. Quantum mechanics and the “Risky Game”
  4. Chaos, Complexity, and Control
  5. Science and Humanism
  6. Science and the Retreat from Reason
  7. The Loss of Certainty and the Quest for Beauty in Science

Notes and References



John Gillot has a degree in applied mathematics. He works at the Genetic Interest Group, London. Manjit Kumar has a degree in physics and philosophy. He is deputy editor of the journal Paradigm, and a tutor at the City Literary Institute, London.

SKU: mrp9878 Categories: ,

Publication Date: January 1997

Number of Pages: 288

Paperback ISBN: 9780853459873