I love to seek out science history books that tell the stories of unsung heroes. Anything that doesn’t begin and end with Newton, that doesn’t praise Darwin’s work of genius, that doesn’t repeat the somber myth of Galileo’s persecution, is what I want. Clifford Conner’s 2005 book A People’s History of Science: Miners, Midwives, and “Low Mechanicks” exemplifies this worthy retelling of the story of science better than anything I’ve ever read.Read more
Was Science Really Born in Ancient Greece?
There is no question more tempting to the historian of science than the age-old “When did science begin?” The most popular answer to this question has to be “Ancient Greece!” It was Carl Sagan’s answer, and it was Simon Singh’s. This week, I found that it was also Andrew Gregory’s answer.Read more
Book Review: Big Bang by Simon Singh
I have made a horrible mistake.
I allowed Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh to sit on my bookshelf for three and a half years, unread. After finally reading this thrilling, enlightening, and entertaining book, I now know that all these years I was missing something great. And holographic.Read more
9 Pre-Darwinian Evolutionary Thinkers You Didn’t Know About
There are some days, weeks, and months that seem to stretch on forever. The past two years have certainly felt like a lifetime. Our sense of time can feel so warped that the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries can feel like eons ago. In the community of evolution enthusiasts, Charles Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species is (intentionally or unintentionally) hailed as the long-ago beginning of evolutionary thought. But in comparison with many of his evolutionary predecessors, Darwin might as well have published just yesterday.Read more
Book Review: Lost Discoveries by Dick Teresi
On the surface, Dick Teresi’s Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science—from the Babylonians to the Maya is an eye-opening and thought-provoking book on the history of non-Western science. It is a book I would recommend to anyone who believes in the “Greek miracle,” who takes Carl Sagan’s words about the Ionian birth of science at face value, and generally anyone who wants to take a less white, less Western perspective on both science and history as wholes. However, anyone who reads this must also be able to question what they are reading, ask for the author’s sources and motivation, and be ready to think for themselves despite the author’s biases.
Inaccuracy, Eurocentrism, and Antitheism in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos
“Whatever is inconsistent with the facts, no matter how fond of it we are, must be discarded or revised.” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos Episode 13: “Who Speaks for Earth?”
Since first reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan one year ago, I have revered him. I admire his worldview and his way of expressing it. I’ve dedicated many blog posts to him and to the curiosity that he has inspired in me. I’ve shared dozens of his quotes, many of which carry the same sentiment as the one above. This dedication to the truth, this unwillingness to accept facts only because they were propagated by an authority figure, is what brings me to write that Carl Sagan was wrong.Read more