David N. Livingstone

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyDavid N. Livingstone’s new book traces the processes by which communities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that shared the same Scottish Calvinist heritage engaged with Darwin and Darwinians in different local contexts. Dealing with Darwin: Place, Politics, and Rhetoric in Religious Engagements with Evolution (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014) locates evolutionary debates in particular sites and situations as a way of understanding the history of science in terms of “geographies of reading” and “speech spaces.” The chapters introduce episodes that bring us into specific localities of reading and talking about Darwin, from Edinburgh in the 1870s, to Belfast during the “Winter of Discontent” following John Tyndall’s “Belfast Address,” to Toronto, to South Carolina, and finally to Princeton, NJ. These episodes collectively move readers away from understanding Darwin and his histories in terms of “isms,” instead looking carefully at the roles of three interrelated factors in shaping public encounters with Darwin’s ideas: place, politics, and rhetoric. The book concludes with a look at the ways that these factors continue to be pervasive in more recent dealings with Darwin. With its vibrant language, careful research, and compelling argument, Dealing with Darwin will be a must-read for historians of science, especially those interested in evolution, religion, Darwin, and/or locality.

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Thomas McFaul and Al BrunstingGod is Here to Stay: Science, Evolution, and Belief in God

June 19, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] The book discussed in this interview is God is Here to Stay: Science, Evolution, and Belief in God (Wipf and Stock, 2014) by Thomas McFaul and Al Brunsting, two authors with very different backgrounds. McFaul is a college professor specializing in philosophy and religion, Brunsting a physicist with numerous publications and patents, many [...]

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Peter GardenforsThe Geometry of Meaning: Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces

June 9, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Language] A conceptual space sounds like a rather nebulous thing, and basing a semantics on conceptual spaces sounds similarly nebulous. In The Geometry of Meaning: Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces (MIT Press, 2014), Peter Gärdenfors demonstrates that this need not be the case. Indeed, his research is directed towards establishing a formal, mathematically-grounded account of semantics, [...]

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Omar W. NasimObserving by Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century

June 2, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] In Omar W. Nasim’s new book, a series of fascinating characters sketch, paint, and etch their way toward a mapping of the cosmos and the human mind. Observing by Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century (University of Chicago Press, 2013) examines the history of observation of celestial nebulae in [...]

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Melinda B. FaganPhilosophy of Stem Cell Biology: Knowledge in Flesh and Blood

May 15, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Philosophy] Philosophy of science has come a very long way from its historically rooted focus on theories, explanations, and evidential relations in physics elaborated in terms of a rather mythical “theory T”. But even in philosophy of biology, attention has largely been on the concepts and abstract mathematics of evolutionary biology, not [...]

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Richard YeoNotebooks, English Virtuosi, and Early Modern Science

May 14, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] During the Great Fire of London in September 1666, Samuel Pepys went out to the garden and dug some holes. There he placed his documents, some wine, and “my parmezan cheese” for safekeeping as the buildings and streets of his city were licked and then consumed by flames. [...]

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David AdgerA Syntax of Substance

April 26, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Language] Nouns are the bread and butter of linguistic analysis, and it’s easy not to reflect too hard on what they actually are and how they work. In A Syntax of Substance (MIT Press, 2013), David Adger tackles this question, as well as others that are just as fundamental to the way we think about [...]

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Oscar E. FernandezEveryday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us

April 17, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Mathematics] The book discussed in this interview is Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us (Princeton University Press, 2014) by Oscar E. Fernandez, who teaches mathematics – and calculus in particular – at Wellesley College.  While it can be read by someone who wants to obtain a sense of what calculus is and how [...]

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Robert MitchellExperimental Life: Vitalism in Romantic Science and Literature

April 16, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] Robert Mitchell’s new book is wonderfully situated across several intersections: of history and literature, of the Romantic and contemporary worlds, of Keats’ urn and a laboratory cylinder full of dry ice. In Experimental Life: Vitalism in Romantic Science and Literature (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), Mitchell argues that we are [...]

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Michael StrevensTychomancy: Inferring Probability from Causal Structure

April 15, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Philosophy] When we’re faced with a choice between Door #1, Door #2, and Door #3, how do we infer correctly that there’s an equal chance of the prize being behind any of the doors? How is it that we are generally correct to choose the shorter of two checkout lines in the [...]

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