Borin Van Loon: Science Guide coverIntroducing ScienceEvil sweetcorn

Icon Books (UK), Totem Books (USA). 2002

Written by Ziauddin Sardar, Illustrated / designed by Borin Van Loon
Our world is inconceivable without science. Its discoveries benefit us - antibiotics, computers, space travel, gene mapping - and reveal the secrets of human evolution, the cosmos and our place in it. Science also threatens us with the risks of nuclear holocaust, eugenics and the pollution of our ecosystem. How do we reconcile the advantages of science with its perils? What do scientists actually do? Is science 'value free'? How has science evolved and where is it leading us?

Introducing Science explores these troubling questions. It reveals how science itself and our approach to studying science have changed radically over the last few decades. The development of Science Studies is traced from its origin in the ideas of Thomas Kuhn, Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend and others. Sociological, feminist and postcolonial criticisms reveal that uncertainty and ignorance tend to increase with changes in the production of knowledge. We have arrived at the threshold of post-normal science.

With this book I was determined to resist the temptation to incorporate too many bleeds and sweeping double spreads (I'm never sure that perfect bound books are appropriate for double spreads anyway: the physical and pychological gutter breaks the book into separate pages.) I've always maximised the picture sizes and this sometimes over-cramps the text (particularly with late rewrites by the author!), so I wanted the graphical elements to breathe. To this end I introduced a continuing motif throughout the book. Wherever a title occurs I placed an engraving of a piece of archaic scientific paraphernalia, some quite large. This ensured that pages didn't become overly busy.

Dodo, and how!
The Dodo: proof that 'Man' doesn't always recognize his responsibility for maintaining and preserving 'the integrity of the abode of his terrestrial journey'.
Karl Popper: one of the most innovative post-war philosophers of science and a great set of cheekbones.


The 'traditional' science teacher in a public school of the last century (or the one before that?). At top: the evil genetically-modified sweetcorn, Star Link, which turned out to be allergenic and regularly contaminated crops of other varieties.


This book probes into the very nature of science in different aspect: the feminist science; Third world science; Post-colonial science etc. (

"Until quite recently..." we are told " ... Scientists were regarded as quasi-religious supermen, heroically battling against all odds to discover the truth." Ziauddin Sardar and Borin Van Loon purport to save us from this delusion in their book "Introducing Science". They present the view of science from a select group of historians, sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers and feminists, operating under the banner of "Science Studies" and "the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge", who bring us an understanding of how science works in practice. The views of scientists themselves are summarily dismissed, they having misunderstood their domain in many important ways.

The book begins by describing the portrayal of scientists in cinema and newspapers highlighting the lack trust of scientists amongst the public. The growth of science studies is charted from its radical origins in the 1960's, to its expansion to a discipline in its own right. The aim being to examine the "in-built gender and racial biases" and to open the practice of science "to democratic accountability." A very short history of western science follows. The considerable contribution to science made in Arab and non-western cultures is not mentioned. The change in philosophical conceptions of science is examined, from positivism, Karl Poppers "falsifiability" theory and Thomas Kuhn's "paradigms" through to the radical ideas of Paul Feyerbend for whom "science has no claims to superiority over other systems of thought such as religion and magic." The views of feminist and non-western critics are also presented. Various sociological views are examined ending with the famous hoax paper by Sokal, a professor of physics, revealing the "anything goes" motto of postmodern criticism.

The book ends with a focus on the problems of commercial funding and public accountability of science. The funding, limiting constraints due to tradition, and accountability of the science studies brigade is not examined. In the end a disturbing prognosis for science is predicted unless the general public is empowered to control and participate in the science process.
The title "Introduction to Science" is misleading. Indeed a definition of science is not even attempted as it is "...anything but easy to define." The book is concerned with the subject of science studies and would be a valuable introduction to readers and science practitioners interested in the origins of postmodern critical perceptions of science. The cartoon format limits the text to a sequence of soundbites. Nevertheless the key elements and ideas are effectively conveyed. For readers interested in the process of science itself, the book "The Trouble with Science" by Robin Dunbar, is recommended instead.
Reviewer: paragvyas from London United Kingdom (17 July, 2002)
Albert EinsteinHere's an Einstein double portrait (not from the book)

Eastern Philosophy...
Cultural Studies...
Media Studies...
Critical Theory...

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