I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Newton's Apple and Other Myths About Science Edited by Ronald L. Numbers and Kostas Kampourakis

This book is a continuation of the book Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion.  Ronald Numbers did the Galileo book and when Kostas Kampourakis met up with him in 2012, the two conceived of a book dedicated to science education myths.  They agreed to have over two dozen colleagues collaborate on this project, all of whom are experts in the field upon which they are discussing.  As usual, I jumped right in and discovered I already knew about the myth of their being no scientific discovery between the Greeks and the Scientific Revolution (especially the Dark Ages), mainly due to suppression by Christianity.  So, I skipped that and the next one was that people before Columbus thought the world was flat. Wow, I'm thinking. I know more about hard core science than I thought apparently, because I knew this one and the next one about Copernicus and the truth about his heliocentric views.

I decide as this point it would be wise to go to the front and look at the various myths and find the ones I did not know. I started running into trouble with Myth 7: That Friedrich Wohler's Synthesis of Urea in 1828 Destroyed Vitalism and Gave Rise to Organic Chemistry. My best friend in college, a very intelligent woman, had to take organic chemistry twice. I knew I had no hope of understanding that chapter if she had trouble with it.

I do happen to have a lot of science-loving friends, though, who I think really might like this book, or the one that came before it.  Here is a list of the other chapters: That Nineteenth-Century Geologists Were Divided into Opposing Camps of Catastophists and Uniformitarians; That Lamarckian Evolution Relied Largely on Use and Disuse and That Darwin Rejected Lamarchian Mechanisms; That Darwin Worked on His Theory in Secret for Twenty Years, His Fears Causing Him to Delay Publication; That Wallace's and Darwin's Explanations of Evolution Were Virtually the Same; That Darwinian Natural Selection Has Been "the Only Game in Town"; That After Darwin (1871), Sexual Selection Was Largely Ignored until Robert Trivers (1972) Resurrected the Theory; That Louis Pasteur Disproved Spontaneous Generation on the Basis of Scientific Objectivity; and That Gregor Mendel Was a Lonely Pioneer of Genetics, Being Ahead of His Time.

Maybe most of these are well know to even my science-loving friends.  I have not heard of them (heck I cannot understand some of them). I am tossing this book out there for them to see.  What I have read of it is well written. They chose the excellent writers and I do intend to look for the other book and see what if it holds any mysteries that I am unaware of and, more importantly, have the patience to try to understand. 

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