Charles Darwin; Evolution of a Naturalist

The Common Sense of Science
by Jacob Bronowski

Harvard University Press


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Although no review could be located, this classic on the nature of science was recommended by the Massachusetts Department of Education. The book was originally published in 1953 and reprinted numerous times since then, most recently in 1978. The following excerpt is taken from by Sir Hermann Bondi's preface to that edition:

This is a delightful book, at least as important now as when it first appeared. Dr. Bronowski squarely attacks the widespread attitude that science is different and separate from general culture, which he regards as totally mistaken, just as I do. Why, I wonder, is it that if you ask the man in the street whether he could learn, say, Albanian, he will respond that of course he could though it would be an effort, but if he is asked whether he could learn theoretical physics he will say "No, I have not got a mind like that". This distinction is unwarranted, false, and most damaging, and I thoroughly applaud Bronowski's efforts to demolish it. What this book does so splendidly, and with a freshness which has grown rather than diminished with the years, is to analyse the evolution of scientific thinking in a language common to us all. Like any field of human endeavor, like any community, science and the scientific community are rooted in history and are shaped by, and partake in the shaping of, the common perceptions and predispositions of successive periods. Bronowski's talents combine in this book to describe the evolution of the climate of opinion in a most readable form. I am particularly glad that he has been able to put the role of causal connection in science into perspective, so that the philosophical worries about indeterminacy are shown not only to be invalid but to refer to a much overemphasized aspect of the essence of science.