Miscellaneous hodge-podge

Not just a hodge-podge, but a miscellaneous hodge-podge.  Here’s what I’ve been reading:

1.  A critique of the medical revolution by Emily Yoffe in Slate.  Hits on many of the ideas I’ve discussed ad nauseum.  Money quote:

But humans keep experiencing suffering and death. Why? What explains the tremendous mismatch between expectation and reality? Are the cures really coming, just more slowly than expected? Or have scientists fundamentally misled us, and themselves, about the potential of new medical technologies?

2. Roger Pielke Jr.’s review of Vannevar Bush’s Science: The Endless Frontier. Check out the post and the full essay.

3.  The overturning of Obama’s stem cell policy.  Check out Bruggeman for some analysis, as long as you remember that he is in no way, shape or form a lawyer!

4. Barbara Herrnstein-Smith’s Natural Reflections: Human Cognition at the Nexus of Science and Religion. I just started this book, which has been on my list since reading this Stanley Fish post.  The introduction has already blown my mind and I look forward to reading more.  Money quote from a follow-up response Smith wrote to Fish’s post:

Finally and most seriously, I think that the idea of science and religion as counterpoised monoliths deepens prevailing misunderstandings of both. As I emphasize throughout the book, the kinds of things that can be assembled under the term “religion” are exceptionally diverse. They range from personal experiences and popular beliefs to formal doctrines, priestly institutions, ritual practices and devotional icons — Neanderthal burial rites to Vatican encyclicals. The same can be said of “science,” a term that embraces a wide range of quite different kinds of things — general pursuits and specialized practices, findings and theories, instruments and techniques, ideals and institutions (not to mention a share of devotional icons and ritual practices).

I’ve been speaking about disunity of science for a while now and it’s refreshing to see it from a different perspective.


  1. Looking forward to hearing more about the Herrnstein-Smith book! Although from that quote, it sounds like she’s saying “religion is just about anything and science is just about anything” so of course they can’t be counterpoised…
    Did you see the recent book about gender and the brain by Cordelia Fine? I saw it and thought you might be interested.

    1. Hey! Sorry for the slow reply. I actually haven’t read more since last week…I’ll try get into it again. I think you *almost* have it right. Not that religion and science are just about anything…but rather that they are both such vast enterprises that encompass a LOT. So it doesn’t make sense to speak of them as if they’re a single, coherent concept. It’s why I’m annoyed when people say things like “science is about the pursuit of truth and religion is about faith.” Why not say science is about writing grants and working in a machine shop?

      I vaguely remember hearing about Cordelia Fine’s book. Maybe in the Science Times? I still have to finish Londa S.’s book “Has Feminism Changed Science?”

      I think I’m rambling now, and it’s probably because I’ve just finished my 3rd beer tonight!

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