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Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00003.x


We think that science is special: its products - technological spin-offs - dominate our lives. Sometimes it enriches our lives; sometimes it impoverishes them or even takes them away. For better or for worse, no institution has had more impact on the character of our existence this millennium than science. Penicillin, computers, atomic bombs make modern life modern life. Science affects our lives profoundly in another way as well. These technological devices derive from sophisticated theories, some rudimentary understanding of which is the hallmark of the educated person. The theories - evolution, quantum mechanics, relativity, and so forth - tell us stories that are sometimes hard to believe or even to understand. But we do come to believe them. And in coming to believe them we form radically different pictures from our ancestors of ourselves, of the world, and of our place in it. The modern person is composed ultimately of subatomic particles with properties that defy comprehension. We trace our origins back to inanimate matter and live in a curved space-time created by a big bang. Nowhere is this hunger to know the scientific picture of the world more manifested than in the remarkable current demand for popular science writings. Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time (1988), on the list of best-selling books for well over a year, is but one of many attempts to paint the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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