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American Mathematical Society (pdf)
New York Times
Simon McLeish
Asweknowit.ca

John Horgan

The end of science

Can science keep going on at an ever accelerating rate, or will the flow of new ideas dry up in the near future? Horgan asks plenty of well known scientists but doesn't listen to their answers - he's already decided in his own mind, in which science seems to be a form of post-modernist literary criticism. Science is called naïve when dealing with something which is well known, ironic when it's more speculative, so you can't win either way. There's not much here if you want a map of how science will progress in the coming decades, but the book is worth reading for the interviews with such a diverse range of scientists - Horgan manages to get them to answer some awkward questions without being thrown out of the door.

The book covers a wide range of subjects, starting with philosopy and moving through physics and cosmology to evolution, social science and neuroscience. In the later chapters on chaos and artificial intelligence there's more scope for Horgan's criticism of excessive speculation. There's also a chapter on the 1994 Santa Fe conference on the Limits to Scientific Knowledge. In the final chapter, in his responses to his critics, Horgan's arguments seem much more cogent than at the start of the book. Unfortunately the end of the book is reached before this new mode of reasoning makes much progress.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 322 pages  
ISBN: 0553061747
Salesrank: 1935626
Weight:0.75 lbs
Published: 1997 Broadway Books
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 334 pages  
ISBN: 0316640522
Salesrank: 1820536
Weight:0.95 lbs
Published: 1997 Little, Brown
Marketplace:New from £5.32:Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 336 pages  
ISBN: 0553061747
Salesrank: 867044
Weight:0.75 lbs
Published: 1997 Broadway Books
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 34.16:Used from CDN$ 0.01
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Product Description
In The End of Science, John Horgan makes the case that the era of truly profound scientific revelations about the universe and our place in it is over. Interviewing scientific luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, and Richard Dawkins, he demonstrates that all the big questions that can be answered have been answered, as science bumps up against fundamental limits. The world cannot give us a “theory of everything,” and modern endeavors such as string theory are “ironic” and “theological” in nature, not scientific, because they are impossible to confirm. Horgan's argument was controversial in 1996, and it remains so today, still firing up debates in labs and on the internet, not least because—as Horgan details in a lengthy new introduction—ironic science is more prevalent than ever. Still, while Horgan offers his critique, grounded in the thinking of the world's leading researchers, he offers homage, too. If science is ending, he maintains, it is only because it has done its work so well.