The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has a great web site with a series (so far on-going) How to Think Aboot Science.
I recommend the site as a great resource for interviews with the players in many different areas of the philosophy of science, on the sociology of science, and on what is happening at the far fringes and beyond.
While I encourage a visit to the site, I can hardly recommend some of the ideas presented there. A few of them are downright screwy.
For example, James Lovelock rolls out his tired Gaia hypothesis for the n-teenth time. This belief states, more or less, that the Earth is alive and in just the right condition—lest we continue being naughty and upset the balance—for human life. Also the life of viruses, infectious bacteria, rats and other vermin.
Actually, whenever Gaia supporters mention non-human lifeforms, it’s always the fuzzy or feathered kind. They always forget the nasty stuff. Anyway, the Gaia hypothesis is sort of the Strong Anthropic Principle applied to just the planet, and just the way the planet is now (forgeting orbital variations, for example).
Rupert Sheldrake talks about having psychic connections with plants—no, not really. But what he’s advocating is not too different. Sheldrake is a big ESP buff. He has the idea that, roughly, plants have mysterious aura-like fields that are necessary for their growth. Nobody else has been able to find them yet, but Sheldrake can.
Steven Shapin presents the standard relativist view (that we refuted yesterday) that “science is social all the way down, and that this in no way undermines its truth claims, truth also being, by nature, social.” Hey, Shapin, is that statement true? If so…well, you get the idea.
There are many nods to our modern sensitivities, as will be obvious from a cursory inspection of the speakers and topics.
Then again, there are some intriguing, even daring, ideas. Margaret Lock, who has studied menopause in North American and Japanese women “makes a surprising suggestion. She proposes that there are biological differences between [these] women.” Not just cultural, but physiological differences. Not superficial ones, either, like outward appearances, but something more fundamental. This is a politically dangerous area, as, say, Charles Murray would tell you.
Lee Smolin takes string theory to task, as he does in his readable and important The Trouble with Physics. Smolin claims that string theory is beautiful—and exceedingly complex—mathematics, but it doesn’t seem to be physics.
Allan Young talks about how post-traumatic stress syndrome was invented, created out of whole cloth, that is.
Christopher Norris and noted philosopher Mary Midgley try to bring realism back to the Western world (I would say it was always there, but ignored or denied). It was Midgley, incidentally, that gave the most scathing and damning attack on Richard Dawkins memes and self genes theories.
Maybe we should have audio interviews here with some of our—it has to be said—highly intelligent readers.