Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, March 2017
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
- Check Wendig, Invasive
- Mind candy technothriller, drawing on obviously-loving research into ants.
Fun enough, but takes its own oracular pronouncements about The Future a bit
- Alice Dreger, Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science
- This is Dreger's apologia pro vita sua. I like her more abstract
conclusions or reflections about the proper roles of scholarship and activism,
and on freedom of expression generally, but I believed that stuff already; and
she's very sound on the creeping take-over of universities by administrators as
to academic freedom. All of this makes me inclined to trust her. So...
- If you believe Dreger's accounts of the various controversies she's gotten
involved in, she is a flat-out heroine on behalf of truth, justice, and the
American way. (I say this with absolutely no irony or sarcasm whatsoever.) It
is very unfortunate that I don't see any way in which I could responsibly make
up my mind about this without re-investigating every damn thing. §
- Juliet Marillier, Dreamer's Pool
- Mind candy fantasy, set in Christianizing Ireland. (The Celtica is not
too overwhelming.) --- Sequel.
- Harry Collins, Are We All Scientific Experts Now?
- Collins is a sociologist of science who has spent many years studying the
physicists searching for gravitational waves, and, in doing so, has developed
some very interesting and persuasive-sounding ideas about different forms of
expertise. In particular, he distinguishes usefully between the knowledge
needed to actually contribute to a scientific discipline, and what's needed
just to interact with its practitioners. To put it much more vulgarly and
dismissively than he ever would, "interactional expertise" is the ability to
bullshit your way through a discussion.
(Cf.) This little book is partly
him expounding his ideas about different forms of expertise (unhelpfully but
harmlessly arranged in a "periodic" table, with no actual periodicity), and
partly also an expression of worry that the cultures and polities of the
developed world are coming to dis-value scientific expertise in all its forms.
That worry is a bit rich, considering his larger theoretical commitments*, but
sound and welcome. This is a small, well-written little book which I warmly
recommend to anyone interested in either expertise or science as a social
- *: Collins has long advocated an out-and-out
relativism, arguing (I paraphrase only slightly) that we should realize that
science is always just a cover for the temporary outcome of local political
struggles, because this conclusion is so overwhelmingly established by
reliable empirical studies by social scientists. This absurdly
self-undermining thesis does not, fortunately, make much of an appearance in
- Update: More
Collins, on closely related matters.
- Jane Haddam, Quoth the Raven
- Mystery. This was the first book by Haddam I read, back in 1995 or 1996.
My memories, despite being old enough to legally drink, are pretty accurate,
though I had forgotten exactly whodunnit. It may have helped that the
culture-war campus politics which forms part of the background have moved
very, very slowly.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime;
Commit a Social Science;
The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts;
Tales of Our Ancestors;
The Progressive Forces
Posted at March 31, 2017 23:59 | permanent link