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The Golem (Canto Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Harry M. Collins , Trevor Pinch
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Review

"The Golem should be required reading for anyone interested in how scientific knowledge is created and concerned about the role of science in contemporary society." Science, Technology and Society

Product Description

Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch liken science to the Golem, a creature from Jewish mythology, powerful yet potentially dangerous, a gentle, helpful creature that may yet run amok at any moment. Through a series of intriguing case studies the authors debunk the traditional view that science is the straightforward result of competent theorisation, observation and experimentation. The very well-received first edition generated much debate, reflected in a substantial new Afterword in this second edition, which seeks to place the book in what have become known as 'the science wars'.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1216 KB
  • Print Length: 211 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (March 29 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E3UR3L2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #284,949 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Customer Reviews

2.5 out of 5 stars
2.5 out of 5 stars
Top Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The "Scientific Principle" Jan. 14 2001
Format:Paperback
"The Golem: What You Should Know About Science" by Collins and Pinch can be recommended to any present and future scientist. The cases laid out by the authors demonstrate how much science and scientific results can be hidden under personal interests, believes (superstition is a better word), wishes and inaccuracy. One example is the "proof" of Einstein's gravitaion theory by Sir Arthur Eddington by systematically dismissing data in conflict with the theory.
Nonetheless, I cannot say that I got the message of the book. In all cases finally the "scientific principle" worked out nicely, i.e. the claims and conclusions of researchers have been controlled by other scientists. Since we are all human beings, one must be naive to believe that scientists were immune against a personal bias of their work, and, of course, influece, leadership (more or less due to competency) and the way how data and criticism are presented has an impact on how scintific findings are being discussed. It is important to remind oneself to be as objective as possible in scientific work, but there is no reason to discard the present scientific system.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Depending on your intentions, this book, and its companion volume The Golem at Large: What You Should Know about Technology, could be indespensible. They comprise a number of case studies in contemporary (i.e. 20th century) scientific discoveries and controversies that can be read in any order. The studies are couched between an introduction and conclusion that express the authors' aims -- to show science in action as messy and controversial but nontheless a powerful means for generating knowledge. These slender volumes are ideally suited for a course in the history or philosophy of science.
By exploring how scientists actually conduct themselves and describing the scientific and extra-scientific stakes, the authors (two sociologists of science) dispel many scientific myths in a lucid, approachable style. Even with casual study, they can bolster scientific understanding. The books are of potentially special value to undergraduate and graduate students studying and doing science themselves. I'm tempted to say that if you're a young scientist, these books cannot fail to make you a better one. Even if you're not a scientist, and never intend to be one, these are fascinating stories.
Of course, many scientists have known for a long time what Collins and Pinch have tried to convey. J.B.Conant was such a scientist. His case studies, published in 1957, provide historical examples in the same mold as Collins and Pinch, who explicitly admit to having drawn inspiration from The Harvard Case Studies in Experimental Science edited by J.B.Conant
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Golem built on sand May 21 2001
By Keith
Format:Paperback
Another book in the sociology of science and science and technology studies genre that tries to throw into question scientific methods or rational reconstructions of various theories or episodes in the history of science. The authors argue that science, controversial research and experiments undertaken to prove certain scientific theories, are resolved or left unresolved simply by majority consensus--even though ostensibly, convincing evidence to the contrary is presented by a lone experimenter or experimenters. In some cases, scant or questionable evidence was used to support major theories; or the authority of the scientists overruled evidence to the contrary. Credibility is usually at stake in these controversies and it is at this cusp of scientific controversy that one starts to see the real workings of science. According to Collins and Pinch then, Nature imposes less of a constraint in scientific debates than previously supposed.
After going through the book though, I'm unconvinced by the authors' arguments and conclusions drawn from their eight examples. First off, I think that selectively sampling from the history of science in order to draw conclusions about how science is done generally tells us more about what direction the authors are trying to steer their arguments--rather than give us anything definite about the workings of science. In spite of the fact that the authors say they are doing 'interpretative history', their arguments and conclusions are simply unwarranted. In my view, what they are really pointing out is that the process of discovery in science is a messy and complex business; but this really has no bearing on scientists' justifications in their acceptance or rejection of theories.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars interesting but ultimatly pointless May 31 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is very interesting and would be very valuable if it had stayed with criticism of the History of Science and how it's presented in text books. However, the authors' insistence that scientific fact is built by consensus independent of the facts of the world is contradicted by their fear that defense lawyers can deconstruct sciencetific evidence. I don't see why they would be worried about jury's ignoreing evidence unless they are affraid guilty people are being set free. And why would they think those poeple were guilty if they didn't believe in the independent truth of the scientific "facts" that point to guilt?
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Case studies in science -- lucid, approachable, fascinating Feb. 23 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Depending on your intentions, this book, and its companion volume The Golem at Large: What You Should Know about Technology, could be indespensible. They comprise a number of case studies in contemporary (i.e. 20th century) scientific discoveries and controversies that can be read in any order. The studies are couched between an introduction and conclusion that express the authors' aims -- to show science in action as messy and controversial but nontheless a powerful means for generating knowledge. These slender volumes are ideally suited for a course in the history or philosophy of science.
By exploring how scientists actually conduct themselves and describing the scientific and extra-scientific stakes, the authors (two sociologists of science) dispel many scientific myths in a lucid, approachable style. Even with casual study, they can bolster scientific understanding. The books are of potentially special value to undergraduate and graduate students studying and doing science themselves. I'm tempted to say that if you're a young scientist, these books cannot fail to make you a better one. Even if you're not a scientist, and never intend to be one, these are fascinating stories.
Of course, many scientists have known for a long time what Collins and Pinch have tried to convey. J.B.Conant was such a scientist. His case studies, published in 1957, provide historical examples in the same mold as Collins and Pinch, who explicitly admit to having drawn inspiration from The Harvard Case Studies in Experimental Science edited by J.B.Conant
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and dangerous book May 24 2013
By Chuck Huff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I teach a variety of classes using this text, and often assign individual case studies in tutorials. The point of this modest and infuriating text is to describe the social and evidential processes of science by looking at what they call "disputed science." This is in some ways parallel to looking at what T. Kuhn calls "revolutionary science" (since it is opposed to "normal" science). It is, of course, NOT looking at how everyday science happens (Try Bruno Latour's work for that, or Kuhn's). Opposing reviews are simply what one can expect for a book that enters this domain of disputed science

After they calm down from being angry or confused, my students learn from Collins & Pinch that they need to be thoughtful scientists, and that they cannot simply assume that good method will always save them. They are aware of the "experimenter's regress" -- the process of ever-lengthening methods sections and increased accusation in disputed science. They become aware of the ways that technology, methods, and social assumption shape the science they want to do.

The book will not teach them how to avoid or manage these things, that is the job of more mundane writing. But they are at least taught that science is critically important in our lives.

PS: Those tired of critical inquiry and its excesses can find solace in Latour's (2004) essay: Latour, Bruno. (2004) "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern." Critical Inquiry, Vol. 30, No. 2., Winter 2004, pp. 225-248.

PPS: They have two more very useful books with Golem in the title: one on technology and one on medicine.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must to understand the real nature of research Dec 15 2013
By Emilio De Luigi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Somehow it may seem to have no clearly defined purpose, but in reality it achieves what is its main goal: make Science appear in all its laborious, sometimes hesitant, sometimes even confused pace. Which doesn't take away anything from Science, on the contrary is perfect in allowing us to understand how difficult research normally is.

I didn't give 5 stars because I would have like it to be a bit more rich of examples of the frequently tortuous itinerary of scientific research.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another shot from the sociologists in the science wars Jan. 2 2014
By Eli Todd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While the stated goal of this book is to "tell the common person everything that they need to know about science", it would seem that this is a lie. This book is an attempt to portray science as not only arational but somewhat irrational. The authors cherry pick their case studies with no other reason than that they claim, with no justification given, that controversial science shows us all we need to know about science and the scientific method. At the same time the authors seem to berate scientists for cherry picking the results of their experiments to support the favored hypothesis. Throughout the book the authors use the methods that the decry in scientists to provide justification for their claims.

To get a better understanding of some of the concepts that the authors are trying to get across I would strongly recommend reading Thomas Kuhn's Structures of Scientific Revolutions. While only giving Structures of Scientific Revolutions a very brief nod, the authors attempt to show many of the concepts that Thomas Kuhn introduced, but they do it without the context of Kuhn, which leads to a grave misunderstanding of these concepts. It casts science in a light of relativism and irrationality, which is not the case. It is my belief that this is intentional on the part of the authors.

All that being said, if you have read Kuhn (and I recommend the book to anyone interested in the history of science) then there is something to be gained from the case studies in this book. Just keep in mind that there is a very real bias on the part of the authors, they use logical fallacies, and sometimes their examples for the exemplification of their points, when scrutinized, tend to prove the opposite of what they claim. But when read carefully there is a deal of interesting facts contained in their case studies. Most of the time the authors are not wrong in what they claim but without the context of Kuhn's paradigms their claims seem more derogatory than they actually are.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exposing Some of Science's Dirty Secrets May 21 2014
By H. J. Spencer PhD, renegade-Physicist - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this book because of my professional interest in relativity (at least, the 'Special' theory). I was shocked to discover how Eddington fudged his famous observations. These were not discovered for several years - by then, Einstein & Eddington (not a coincidence) were world famous (actively promoted by the Times newspapers of London & New York). None-the-less, the scientific community still trumpets this 1919 confirmation of Einstein's TWO theories, even though they have little in common apart, from the great marketing word "Relativity" (Planck's word that was eaten up by the post World-War I generation, who were sickened by the deceit of the European ruling class, who had all misused the absolute appeals to God & King to whip up widespread nationalistic fervour).

Furthermore, most people still believe that it was Einstein, who created the increasing mass with speed formula, when it was really Max Planck, who had got an inside track on Einstein's 1905 paper when Planck was editor of AdP. Einstein's SpecRel theory was a mathematical attempt to save a more famous mathematical theory: Maxwell's theory of EM that had predicted light speed would vary with the relative speed of the Aether. Michelson showed this was experimentally false, so Einstein incorporated this discovery as a "postulate", cranked his linear algebra formulae and "derived" the Lorentz transformation, where space & time lose their common-sense properties and start shrinking & slowing down. Only the temporal effects have some limited experimental evidence.

Einstein's first GenRel success on 'explaining' Mercury's anomalous precession was already predicted by adding a finite speed feature (delayed action-at-a-distance) to the standard effects of Newton's instantaneous theory of gravity (Burniston-Brown); an ancient result long forgotten.

As one who spent several years in academic physics research, I can attest to the personality factors that Collins suggests goes into the process of academic research. Few outsiders realize what a blood-sport this game can become, with no quarter given.
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