Quantum Dialogue pertains both to the history of science and to historiography. On the one hand, it contains a detailed historical analysis of the development of quantum ideas. On the other hand, it is a deep historiographical study, the main outcome of which is the so-called dialogical approach or, simply, dialogism. Scientific practice, according to this approach, is an ongoing conversation among scientists. The result of this conversation is a "flux of ideas", which is characterized by numerous interesting features.
One such feature is that scientific dialogue does not presuppose any fundamental theoretical framework. Contrary to the view commonly held in the post-Kuhnian philosophy of science, the author reckons that the founding fathers of quantum mechanics were not committed to any particular philosophy. Thus, in her analysis of early days of quantum mechanics, she claims that it would be a mistake to portray the early debates as an opposition of particle and wave ontologies (chapter 2). The same goes for Heisenberg's alleged commitment in positivism and Born's supposed belief in indeterminism (chapter 3). Moreover, the author argues, the very end product of the quantum revolution - the orthodox quantum theory (i.e. the theory in its Copenhagen interpretation) - contains no coherent ontology but, rather a mix of diverse ideas arisen from the dialogical nature of scientific activity (chapter 3).
Not only is the scientific discovery possible without conceptual schemes, its results cannot be forced into a fixed conceptual framework even after discovery. The author opposes the received view that a published scientific paper should contain a coherent solution. One striking example of such an incoherence and internal tension is Heisenberg's uncertainty paper (chapter 5). Bohr's response to Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen's paradox is another instance of non-fixed, ongoing nature of the scientific discourse (chapter 7). Finally, Beller shows that incoherence and tension preserve even nowadays, for there is no unanimous agreement even on the nature and meaning of wave-particle complementarity (chapter 11).
Another characteristic of dialogism is that it views scientific discovery as a multidirectional process, which takes place in a communicative network and is necessarily triggered by disagreement. The author emphasizes this feature on several occasions. In her analysis of Heisenberg's uncertainty paper, Beller shows that the paper was an outcome of a multilateral dialogue and disagreement with such interlocutors as Einstein, Bohr, Born, Schrödinger, Pauli and others - a process of gradual emergence of ideas, a process of their conflict, elimination or acceptance (chapter 4). The role of a communicative network in scientific discovery is demonstrated also by the author's thorough analysis of the emergence of Bohr's complementarity principle (chapter 6). This, in turn, highlights the role of "lesser scientists", such as Sentfleben, Zernike or Campbell, whose responses helped to shape Heisenberg's and Bohr's ideas.
The main question addressed in the second part of the book is what made the orthodox quantum mechanics seem inevitable. Beller argues that, in order to promote their position, the members of the Copenhagen school employed several rhetoric strategies. One such strategy is to portray the opponent's ideas as pertaining to the old rejected tradition and, thus, as something that was overcome long ago. This strategy was especially aimed at discarding the ideas of the most authoritative opponents - Einstein and Schrödinger. Their views were continuously labeled "naïve", "conservative" or even "obsolete" (chapter 13).
Another powerful rhetoric strategy is to disguise arguments of consistency as those of inevitability. Beller shows that the traditional arguments in favor of the orthodox quantum theory have to do not with its indispensability but, at best, with its consistency. The arguments of Bohr, Heisenberg and their followers only explicate the ideas that were initially taken for granted. Such is, for instance, Bohr's famous argument for inevitability of the classical concepts of wave and particle and, respectively, of wave-particle dualism (chapters 8, 11).
In addition, a whole bunch of non-scientific methods of convincing was employed in order to disguise apparent incoherencies of the orthodox theory. Analogies, allusions of harmony and misleading metaphors were commonplace practice among the followers of the winning Copenhagen camp. One of the most notorious deceptions, according to the author, is that of the existence of a coherent philosophical framework that allegedly underlies the theory. However, as Beller demonstrates, Bohr's metaphorical associations only disguised the fact that the very foundation of the Copenhagen interpretation was saturated with classical intuitions - intuitions that conflict with the gist of quantum theory (chapter 12).
Although de jure there is no Part Three in the book, there is one de facto, for apparently the last two chapters are of a more general nature. While the penultimate chapter uncovers the internal link between the orthodox quantum mechanics and Kuhn's epistemology, the last chapter contains a systematic exposition of dialogism as a new historiography - an alternative way of approaching the history of science. Two critical comments are worth in this context.
1. On Beller's view, the founding fathers didn't have any strict philosophical commitments or beliefs and the orthodox quantum theory is a result of this non-commitment. It is readily seen, however, that such a non-commitment to any particular ontology is itself nothing else but a philosophical commitment. Simply speaking, one who refrains from answering ontological questions about the real nature of micro-objects, takes thus a particular anti-realist position (instrumentalism or positivism, for instance). But anti-realism is a specific philosophical or, more precisely, epistemological standpoint. A question arises as to how Beller's non-commitment thesis should be interpreted. One possible way out is to narrow Beller's non-commitment thesis so as to exclude epistemic non-commitment, leaving ontological non-commitment only. However, it is necessary to note that this reinterpretation is obviously not Beller's, for she puts it unequivocally: what she has in mind is not just an ontological non-commitment, but also a non-commitment with regard to such epistemic position as positivism (cf. pp.7, 52-57, 203).
2. For Beller, dialogism is a way to bridge a gap between two radically different traditions of approaching science - epistemological, that seeks the rules for appraisal of scientific theories, and sociological, that attempts at explaining the process of discovery and construction of theories. It is, on the author's view, a bridge between Theories of Rationality and the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge, a bridge between Popper and Lakatos on one side, and Bloor and Latour on the other. However, the whole idea of such a bridging stems from an apparent misunderstanding of the main task of Theories of Rationality. Beller seems to think that philosophers like Carnap, Popper or Lakatos were up to providing a complete rational description of scientific activity. Such philosophers, she argues, "did not leave epistemological room for free individual creativity" (p.320). Indeed, had a task of Rationality Theories been to provide rational description of the process of scientific discovery, Beller's desire for building a bridge between epistemology and sociology would have seemed natural. But unluckily for Beller, it is not: the problem that Carnap, Popper and Lakatos were concerned with has nothing to do with the behavior of scientists. The sole task of epistemology, as they saw it, is to show how a theory can be appraised irrespective of how it was created, who its author was, or what his own intentions were. Contrary to Beller's statement, Carnap, Popper and Lakatos never aimed at eliminating scientific creativity and never claimed that scientific discovery is a purely rational process. Quite the opposite: each of these philosophers stressed that the process of scientific discovery is in fact creative, nonlinear (if not simply irrational). Hence, the root of Beller's misunderstanding is obvious: she confuses Rationality Theories (i.e. epistemic theories of rational theory choice and theory appraisal) with Theories of Rational Behavior (i.e. theories of rational psychological or sociological explanation of scientists' behavior) (cf. pp.320-321).
All in all Quantum Dialogue is a decent book. Not only is the historical narrative itself full of interesting insights, but the proposed dialogical historiography is definitely worth examining. As for the apparent epistemic flaws of the book, they are in no way repulsive, for they force a reader to think independently, which, in turn, is a necessary condition of any good book.