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2016/12/15
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  1. An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.
  2. Similar books and articles
  3. Richard Lewontin
  4. Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA - Richard C. Lewontin - Google книги

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    No Downloads. Views Total views. These are the aspects of science to which scientists appeal when they try to get money from governments or when they appear on the front pages of newspapers in their public relations efforts to maintain their prosperity.

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    We read repeatedly about how "science has discovered" something, but more often than not those announcements are hedged with qualifiers. Biologists discover "evidence for" genes that "may one day" lead to "a possible" cure for cancer. While their over-optimistic reports breed a certain cynicism, it is nevertheless true that scientists do actually change the way we confront the material world.

    The second function of science, which is sometimes independent and sometimes closely related to the first, is the function of explanation. Even if scientists are not actually changing the material mode of our existence, they are constantly explaining why things are the way they are. It is often said that these theories about the world must be produced in order, ultimately, to change the world through practice.

    Richard Lewontin

    After all, how can we cure cancer unless we understand what causes cancer? How can we increase food production unless we understand the laws of genetics and plant and animal nutrition?

    Yet it is remarkable how much important practical science has been quite independent of theory. In Chapter 3, 1 will consider one of the most famous examples of scientific agricultural change: the introduction of hybrid corn all over the world. Hybrid corn is said to be one of the great triumphs of modern genetics in action, helping to feed people and increase their well-being. Yet the development of hybrid corn and, indeed, almost all plant and animal breeding as it is actually practiced has been carried out in a way that is completely independent of any scientific theory.

    Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA - Richard C. Lewontin - Google книги

    Indeed, a great deal of plant and animal breeding has been done in a way indistinguishable from the methods of past centuries before anyone had ever heard of genetics. The same is true for our attempts to cope with killers like cancer and heart disease. Most cures for cancer involve either removing the growing tumor or destroying it with powerful radiation or chemicals.

    Virtually none of this progress in cancer therapy has occurred because of a deep understanding of the elementary processes of cell growth and development, although nearly all cancer research, above the purely clinical level, is devoted precisely to understanding the most intimate details of cell biology. Medicine remains, despite all the talk of scientific medicine, essentially an empirical process in which one does what.

    Also in Chapter 3, I will consider the relationship between scientific biology and changes in life expectancy. It is not at all clear that a correct understanding of how the world works is basic to a successful manipulation of the world. But explanations of how the world really works serve another purpose, one in which there has been a remarkable success, irrespective of the practical truth of scientific claims. The purpose is that of legitimation. Gould "[Lewontin] is the most brilliant scientist I know and his work embidies, as this book displays so well, the very best in genetics.

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    Shop Books. Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Overview Following in the fashion of Stephen Jay Gould and Peter Medawar, one of the world's leading scientists examines how "pure science" is in fact shaped and guided by social and political needs and assumptions. Read an Excerpt A Reasonable Skepticism Science is a social institution about which there is a great deal of misunderstanding, even among those who are part of it.