THR Web Features   /   November 1, 2016

Introducing the Fall Issue: The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Science

Jay Tolson

Science has been central to the rise of the modern world. The practices of induction, observation, experimentation, theory testing, and falsification, particularly as these became codified within professional associations and institutions devoted to the advancement and promulgation of scientific knowledge, and particularly as such knowledge was applied to a seemingly endless number of practical uses and technologies—all of these have had such profound effects on society and culture that it is sometimes difficult to identify or delimit the influence of science.

But ubiquity can breed suspicion. One concern is that as the power of science grows, its dominion extends even into areas of our culture where its proclaimed authority is questionable. A misplaced trust in what science can do in such areas has in turn bred a distrust even of what  science demonstrably and reasonably can deliver. As contributor Ari N. Schulman writes,  We seem to be facing a slow-brewing crisis of scientific authority even as we hear ever more eager paeans to science. Although these defiant and deferential attitudes might seem at odds, they are each dysfunctional relations toward scientific authority, mutually reinforcing and commonly opposed to the empowering independence science is supposed to sustain."

That is one of the cultural contradictions that lie at the heart of our thematic essays in our fall issue, The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Science. We will be releasing a select number of our articles on a rolling basis over coming weeks.

To that end, enjoy our two launch articles:

For subscribers, of course, the complete issue is available now, whether in print or ePub form. In addition to the above from our fall issue, subscribers can read “Invisible Science” by Harvard University’s Steven Shapin, “Where the New Science of Morality Goes Wrong” by University of Virginia professor James Davison Hunter and philosopher Paul Nedelisky, “Science Anxiety” by essayist Ari N. Schulman, and “Trivial Pursuits: The Decline of Scientific Research” by ethicist Paul Scherz.

In addition, subscribers to our print edition can read essays like “Ladies in Waiting” by Becca Rothfeld, “The Justice of Retribution” by Jeffrie G. Murphy, and “Three Ideal Dinners” by Mark Edmundson.

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