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Published: Jun.11.2011

From Dawn to Decadence: The Evolution of Modern Science

Henry Bauer

From Dawn to Decadence, the magisterial book by Jacques Barzun, has the sub-title, “500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present”. Roughly that same period has seen also the dawn of modern science and its decadence in the latter part of the 20th century. Science changed from an elite avocation into a mass activity, from innovative and ground-breaking to overwhelmingly mediocre, and from highly trustworthy to highly unreliable.

Science became highly reliable as conservative peers resisted novel claims, insisting on strong evidence before abandoning earlier theories; but in the latter half of the 20th century, such relatively healthy resistance to unorthodox claims morphed into active suppression of minority views in science. Dogmatic insistence on wrong theories that are the basis for public policies has brought colossal damage.

A fuller discussion than I can give here is in my new book, Dogmatism in Science & Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth (McFarland, 2011, in publication).

Bio: Henry Bauer is Professor Emeritus of Chemistry & Science Studies and Dean Emeritus of Arts & Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech). Earlier he had been at the Universities of Sydney, Michigan, Southampton, and Kentucky. He is Austrian by birth (1931), Australian by education (1939-56), and American (since 1969) by choice. His publications include more than a hundred articles and ten books, chiefly in chemistry and science studies --- details and CV are at www.henryhbauer.homestead.com. Currently blogging at http://hivskeptic.wordpress.com, and expecting publication by McFarland in 2011 of Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth.