Ziauddin Sardar and Borin van Loon
Icon Books
2011 | 176pp | £6.99 (PB)
ISBN 9781848312968

This is an excellent visual introduction to the philosophy of science, and it succeeds by taking a broad view of its subject. In fact the book’s interest is more in the general area of science and technology studies, rather than in the classical philosophical questions concerning the logic of scientific explanation and the foundations of truth.

There are clear advantages to an editorial strategy that makes central a discussion of the politics and sociology of science. It makes possible a cultural and historical approach that gives a sense of pace and narrative to the writing. The text, ably supported by the illustrations, covers a wide range of topics. It moves easily between discussions of science communication including science in Islam, feminist science, and many other subjects. Anyone who finds the prospect of immersion in the philosophy of science unwelcome, but takes an interest in the social contexts of science, will enjoy this book.

The text has not been updated since its original 2002 publication. Having freed itself from the timeless preoccupations of the philosophy of science it feels slightly dated in some areas. There is discussion of the public understanding of science but not of the evolution of that concept into public engagement. If the book was written now, the author would devote more attention to climate change, and less to the mid-1990s ‘science wars’.

Though the book misses some current concerns, it discusses in a vivid way the relations between science and society. It makes good reading, and will be a valuable tool for imaginative science teacher.