In the 17th century Sir Francis Bacon advocated the patient study of Nature for the benefit of mankind. Most of science today, in its study of medicine, genetics, electronics etc., continues that pragmatic Baconian tradition without fuss. Over the years, however, as its investigation of Nature probed ever deeper into regions far removed from common experience, science has increasingly exhibited traits more usually associated with fundamentalist religion that with dispassionate study. Articulate voices from biology preach the belief in 18th century materialism in the study of evolution; those from physics promulgate a kind of mathematical theology in its study of elementary particles and cosmology; both inveigh against heresy. But science should be beyond that sort of belief. It should not see its undoubted success in manipulating matter as justifying any sort of religious status, as offering a spiritual foundation alternative to religion. As a scientist himself, Brian Ridley is appalled by such theological trends, hence this book. It is an attempt to address these concerns, to reform science, to place science in its broad historical and philosophical context where dogmatic belief has no place, to remind science itself that it has limitations.
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