I’ve found both the article and its comments particularly invigorating, and also learned much from the supporting material in the footnotes.
I suppose some would say that admitting to a disunity of the sciences would threaten the enterprise of scientific theories and their research as a whole; but I see it quite differently. The diversity of the sciences should motivate concentration in research in the individual areas of science (liberated from demands for ‘unification’ conformity), while those searching for a ToE should be spurred on to more complete – and more demonstrable – theories than we have today.
As a practicing scientist I have always assumed that there is one thing, one type of activity, we call science. More importantly, though I am a biologist, I automatically accepted the physicists’ idea that — in principle at the least — everything boils down to physics, that it makes perfect sense to go after a “theory of everything.”
Then I read John Dupré’s The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science , and that got me to pause and think (which, of course, is the hallmark of a good book, regardless if one rejects that book’s conclusions).
I found John’s book compelling not just because of his refreshing, and admittedly consciously iconoclastic tone, but also because a great deal of it is devoted to subject matters, like population genetics, that I actually know a lot about, and am therefore in a good position to…
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