Faith in the Unseen: Curtis White’s ‘Science Delusion’

From The New York Times:

ExistIs there really a menace to the humanities in the breezy flourishes of a Richard Dawkins or a Stephen Hawking? White believes that the remarks of such thinkers matter immensely in an environment that glorifies science, one in which lectures by theorists like Krauss attract more than one million YouTube viewers and a TED presentation of the “connectome” speculations of Sebastian Seung is a hot ticket while attendance at symphony halls dwindles. The connection between the two, as if the lovers of the classical repertory might not significantly overlap with the viewership of lectures on neuroscience, is the kind of implicit dichotomy assumed throughout “The Science Delusion.”

White says that high culture and science are battling over a shared ground, and that the gain of one means the retreat of the other. And he is adamant that the emergence of a new form of science story­telling, wedded to entertainment outlets like TED Talks, is creating a monster that substitutes flashy wonder for hard thinking and insulates the practice of science from a real-world political context of value decisions, large capital investment and dubious technological offshoots. He is unhappiest when it comes to popular science journalism, which he views mostly as a malodorous brew of gushing prose mixed with a dash of snake oil: “The thing that I find most inscrutable about all of the recent books and essays that have sought to give mechanistic explanations for consciousness, personality, emotions, creativity, the whole human sensorium, is how happy the authors seem about it. They’re nearly giddy with the excitement, and so, for some reason, are many of their readers.”

More here.