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Science Talk: Changing Notions of Science in American Popular Cultureby Daniel Patrick Thurs
Synopses & Reviews
Science news is met by the public with a mixture of fascination and disengagement. On the one hand, Americans are inflamed by topics ranging from the question of whether or not Pluto is a planet to the ethics of stem-cell research. But the complexity of scientific research can also be confusing and overwhelming, causing many to divert their attentions elsewhere and leave science to the "experts."
Whether they follow science news closely or not, Americans take for granted that discoveries in the sciences are occurring constantly. Few, however, stop to consider how these advances — and the debates they sometimes lead to — contribute to the changing definition of the term "science" itself. Going beyond the issue-centered debates, Daniel Patrick Thurs examines what these controversies say about how we understand science now and in the future. Drawing on his analysis of magazines, newspapers, journals and other forms of public discourse, Thurs describes how science — originally used as a synonym for general knowledge — became a term to distinguish particular subjects as elite forms of study accessible only to the highly educated.
"This volume is a controversial and important contribution that helps clarify some of the reasons why we, as a culture, are so deeply conflicted about a major, if not the major force driving the modern world." James Gilbert, author of Redeeming Culture: American Religion in an Age of Science
Book News Annotation:
Thurs (PhD, history of science, U. of Wisconsin at Madison) examines the rhetorical tools deployed to discuss science in the US popular press from the 19th century through the 20th century. Focusing on debates over what constitutes science that took place within discussions of phrenology, evolution, Einstein's relativity, and UFOs, he explores how the nature of the scientific changed conceptualized form, gaining boundaries that distinguished it from other forms of human knowledge with an "otherness" not characteristic of the 1800s. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Daniel Patrick Thurs received his Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was recently a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University where he tracked public discussion of nanotechnology.
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