The Values of Science: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997


In this collection, introduced by Jonathan Rée, six eminent scientists and thinkers explore and explain how we can bridge the gap between the values of science and human values. Richard Dawkins, in a powerful critique of cultural relativism, restates the scientists' belief that there is something almost sacred about nature's universal truths. Environmental campaigner George Monbiot points out that however successful it may be as an objective description of nature's ways, biotechnology is also a force in commerce and politics. Nicholas Humphrey denies the assumption that questions of morality are distinct from those of science. For him, science is itself a moral good and therefore a fundamental human right. John D. Barrow describes how scientific interest has recently shifted from simple and universal laws of nature of the kind formulated by Newton, to the study of complexity and chaos. Daniel C. Dennett, like Dawkins, gives a sturdy defense of the "faith in truth" which he takes to be the distinctive creed of the scientist. He presents this faith as a distillation of a universal human ability to tell the difference between appearance and reality. In the wide-ranging philosophical survey which concludes the volume, Mary Midgley argues against precisely this idea of "omnicompetent science." It is one of three unfortunate "myths" of the European Enlightenment, she argues, alongside the myth of social contract and the myth of progress.

Additional information

Includes content by:
  • Richard Dawkins
  • George Monbiot
  • Nicholas Humphrey
  • John D. Barrow
  • Daniel C. Dennett
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Boulder, CO
Publication year:
  • 1999


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