What We Are Reading Today: Why Trust Science? by Naomi Oreskes

Updated 23 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Why Trust Science? by Naomi Oreskes

Do doctors really know what they are talking about when they tell us vaccines are safe? 

Should we take climate experts at their word when they warn us about the perils of global warming? Why should we trust science when our own politicians don’t? 

In this landmark book, Naomi Oreskes offers a bold and compelling defense of science, revealing why the social character of scientific knowledge is its greatest strength — and the greatest reason we can trust it, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Tracing the history and philosophy of science from the late 19th century to today, Oreskes explains that, contrary to popular belief, there is no single scientific method. 

Rather, the trustworthiness of scientific claims derives from the social process by which they are rigorously vetted. This process is not perfect, but she draws vital lessons from cases where scientists got it wrong. Oreskes shows how consensus is a crucial indicator of when a scientific matter has been settled, and when the knowledge produced is likely to be trustworthy.

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What We Are Reading Today: Spinoza’s Ethics by Benedictus de Spinoza

Updated 52 min 2 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: Spinoza’s Ethics by Benedictus de Spinoza

In 1856, Marian Evans completed her translation of Benedict de Spinoza’s Ethics while living in Berlin with the philosopher and critic George Henry Lewes. This would have become the first edition of Spinoza’s controversial masterpiece in English, but the translation remained unpublished because of a disagreement between Lewes and the publisher. Later that year, Evans turned to fiction writing, and by 1859 she had published her first novel under the pseudonym George Eliot. This splendid edition makes Eliot’s translation of the Ethics available to today’s readers while also tracing Eliot’s deep engagement with Spinoza both before and after she wrote the novels that established her as one of English literature’s greatest writers, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Clare Carlisle’s introduction places Ethics in its 17th-century context and explains its key philosophical claims. She discusses George Eliot’s intellectual formation, her interest in Spinoza, the circumstances of her translation of Ethics, and the influence of Spinoza’s ideas on her literary work.