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The Golem: What You Should Know about Science

(Canto Classics)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  253 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Through a series of intriguing case studies including the study of relativity, cold fusion, the "memory" in worms, and the sex life of lizards, this book debunks the view that scientific knowledge is a straightforward outcome of competent theorization, observation, and experimentation. The first edition generated much debate and controversy. This second edition contains a ...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published October 28th 1998 by Cambridge University Press (first published June 1st 1992)
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This is one of those books that frustrate me because they contain so much unfulfilled promise. I tend to spend more time in review and reflection on such works than any other primarily because they so often get so close to getting it really right. (Awful books, on the other hand, don’t merit such examination.) So, my comments should not be taken as being vituperative but rather as the frustration of an ardent admirer. I agree with the vast bulk of ideas that Collins and Pinch present, but I wish ...more
Apr 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una de las tesis principales de este libro es que vale más conocer cómo funciona la ciencia que el contenido de esta y me parece que dicha tesis está muy bien argumentada en las pocas páginas de las que consta este libro. Haciendo uso de análisis de casos, los autores logran desenmascarar el Golem que es la ciencia y que normalmente se viste de Bella-estatua, aunque -hay que aclarar- dicha empresa no se torna nunca irracional ni intentan volvernos anticientíficos. Muy al contrario, hablar de cóm ...more
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The authors, Collins and Pinch, first published The Golem in 1993 with a second edition released in 1998 and republished in 2014. The continued interest in the book is fascinating, since it is without a doubt an odd book. In mediaeval tradition the golem is a creature of clay animated by having the Hebrew word ‘EMETH’ (‘truth’) inscribed on its forehead – it is truth that drives it on. The authors emphasize that this does not mean that the golem understands the truth, but only that it pursues it ...more
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Collins and Pinch offer a short series of case-studies to demonstrate that science in practice is a messy affair of controversy, ideology, and people-politics. The Golem seeks to help non-scientists move from the popular reverence and awe toward Capital-S "Science" to a position that understands that science in practice rarely occurs as science in theory suggests.

Their point is useful to anyone looking to beware of fundamentalism wherever it may appear - and it certainly appears in Science wear
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is not an attack on pseudoscience, but a brilliant expose on how science is not an exact science. I must read for actual scientists.
The Golem takes the form of case histories of some of science's defining moments (Eddington's 'proof' of Einstein's relativity) and some less well-known ones (the sex-life of lizards). The main point is to show how such discoveries and advancements aren't the result of pure logical and experimental method, but occur in conjunction with other factors. Often, controversies are not categorically settled, but things simply move on - due to lack of funding, new discoveries in other fields, etc. Pinch ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, academic, sts
In this book, Collins and Pinch explore several scientific controversies, ranging from settled historical examples like the non-spontaneous generation of life in sterilized mediums, and various proofs of relativity, to modern examples of experimenter's regress in the detection of gravity waves, solar neutrinos, and cold fusion. They amply show that science is a human endeavor, and at the cutting edge it is the human qualities and foibles that matter. As an exploration of relatively non-political ...more
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting work that shows that some of the most famous experiments in the past that "proved" such things as relativity were really not what they seemed. Scientific conclusions are as much a facet of culture, ambition, and ego as they are of truth. The book shines a light on some of the falsehoods we are taught in textbooks in school all the while uplifting science as a noble endeavor. The authors walk this tightrope very well. Its worth the read, particularly if you are NOT a scientist.
Jun 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent antidote to ultra-rational scientism. Give several case studies of high profile scientific theories where the make or break factor was not contained in the data points at all.

Fairly fast reading, and not a lot of background knowledge required about the subjects (from lizard sex to gravity waves).
John Carter McKnight
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Engaging, readable sociology of science. The case studies are drawn from physics and biology and are interesting, readable and illustrative. The most interesting part, however, is the Afterword, in which the authors discuss the book's reception in the scientific community and subsequent debate over contrasting meanings and standards of truth between physics and sociology.
David Westerveld
Science is done by humans and hence has all the characteristics that humans bring into everything they do. A fascinating look at how science really works without the mythical godlike status it is sometimes given in popular culture. Highly recommend for anyone who wants to better know and understand science as a source of truth.
Saafir Evada
"Golem" is a fascinating look at how science is actually done, from high-powered physics to the sex life of lizards.

The examples are compelling and the writing is clear without being overly pedantic. You will end up with much better appreciation for the complex, often messy, and beautiful world of scientific research.

Highly recommended.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A series of short stories that helps the non scientist like myself, become more aware of how the scientific community approach and deals with new and ground breaking experiment. The author also manage to walk that fine line between being too jargon heavy and accessible to the laymen.
Tara Maree
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great read. Gives an interesting perspective on science.
Mark Z
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Anyone who studies science, or its history, philosophy, or sociology should read this.
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Great explanation of why scientists sometimes screw up.
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Excellent book, nearly five-stars. Worth reading for anyone interested even remotely in science, knowledge, or epistemology.
Ben Gallman
If I had to give an explanation of what I thought of Science I would point to this.
Bryce McDonald
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Sep 01, 2018
Scott Turner
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Raaj Pokhriyal
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