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'A Profound Crisis of Purpose in Social Science'

By | June 15, 1987

Among the many social scientists who entered the discipline in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it is easy to observe a fundamental disenchantment with the profession. For many of these people, the attraction of social science lay in its potential relevance to the process of social transformation, whether they conceived of it in terms of radical political change or individual self-realization or "liberation." They looked back upon the 1950s and 1960s, when social scientists were engaged in conduc

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Developing Damage Control for Bad Data

By | June 15, 1987

Hippocrates wrote "I look upon it as being a great part of the art to be able to judge properly of that which has been written." The aphorism is as true today as it was in his time. One major difference, of course, is scale; today's medical publishers turn out some 15 million pages a year. For a scientist or practitioner to "judge properly" of all that is written within a major discipline is clearly impossible. There are quality control checks, however. Colleagues, peer reviewers, editorial boar

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For a World Science Association

By | June 15, 1987

Now is the time to establish an International Association for the Advancement of Science. Such a move would mark a major step toward regaining for science its international prestige, now so sadly deteriorated. It should be constituted from the national associations for the advancement of science existing today in the United States, Great Britain, West Germany, France, India, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Floated in the March and June 1986 issues of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, the

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Physics Should Get Its Act Together

By | June 15, 1987

George Keyworth, the Washington businessman who once served as science adviser to the President, was fond of calling on the scientific community to "get its act together" and start setting priorities. The words have the sound of reason. Surely not all science is equally important and, if scientists don't set the priorities, someone else will. But, of course, as Keyworth must have realized, it's not that simple. It was, for example, possible for nuclear physicists to reach a consensus of sorts th

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Sometimes the Public Is Right

By | June 15, 1987

Scientists have no difficulty in accepting the proposition that they can be wrong. They work in an inherently uncertain enterprise, where mistakes are inevitable and where error ought to be no disgrace. On the other hand, many scientists are uneasy with what is often a closely linked proposition—that lobbyists and campaigners they perceive as being practitioners of "anti-science" can be right. Whether confronted with the supposed hazards of food irradiation or the supposed dietary benefit

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What Science Alone Can't Solve

By | June 15, 1987

Few real-world problems can be solved by the application of a single discipline yet, for the most part, we in the developed countries continue to train people as specialists. Worse still, the educational systems of developing countries have been encouraged to follow the same pattern. Agricultural education is a case in point. Agriculture is the most important activity in developing countries, occupying the majority of the people—men, women and children. The need to improve agricultural pro

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Beyond the Dinosaur Mystique

By | June 1, 1987

Dinosaurs are ubiquitous: from the front page of The New York Times to Esprit fashions, they are making an indelible impression on the public's imagination. But the enormous exposure dinosaurs receive brings with it some troubling concerns. Scientifically, the study of dinosaurs is prospering as never before. New dinosaurs are being described at the rate of one every seven weeks: more than 40 percent of all dinosaurs that we recognize today have been described since 1970. Dinosaur studies were s

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Dinos Teach Kids Science

By | June 1, 1987

I'm sending the tuition bills to Stephen Jay Gould. After, all, it was hearing me read aloud a charming essay of Gould's in The New York Times about his early love of dinosaurs that prompted my son, Brendan, to confide, "Daddy, I love dinosaurs, too. I wanna be a planeatologist when I grow up." Of course, some days it's a spaceman or a detective, but just as often his career goal at age 5 has something to do with dinosaurs. It's not entirely Gould's fault. Dinosaurs have been Brendan's obsession

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Postpone the SSC Decision For Two Years

By | June 1, 1987

There are several arguments against the Superconducting Supercollider that come from outside high-energy physics. High-energy physics, an exciting pioneer field in science, suffers from Big Science syndrome: it requires massive efforts in human and material resources to further the acquisition of knowledge. Meanwhile, areas systemic research show great promise with only moderate expenditure of resources. Huge potential breakthroughs in the principles of accelerator building (such as the superc

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The Case Against the SSC

By | June 1, 1987

I would like to lay out the scientific case against the Superconducting Supercollider because I think many of my colleagues who understand this case are hesitant to make it, not least because some of the arguments are two-edged. I am very hesitant myself, because I am not against the project, except insofar as it competes for resources which I see as needed more elsewhere. Let me organize my thoughts in terms of four slogans, each of which is aimed at sowing doubt about one of the myths supporti

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