This is a "popular science" book, designed as a sequel to our About Life. The text briefly surveys the nature of science and its emergence in post-Renaissance Europe, and investigates the similarities and differences between biology and other sciences.
Our previous book, About Life, concerned modern biology. We used our present-day understanding of cells to 'define' the living state, providing a basis for exploring several general-interest topics: the origin of life, extraterrestrial life, intelligence, and the possibility that humans are unique. The ideas we proposed in About Life were intended as starting-points for debate - we did not claim them as 'truth' - but the information on which they were based is currently accepted as 'scientific fact'. What does that mean? What is 'scientific fact' and why is it accepted? What is science - and is biology like other sciences such as physics (except in subject m- ter)? The book you are now reading investigates these questions - and some related ones. Like About Life, it may particularly interest a reader who wishes to change career to biology and its related subdisciplines. In line with a recommendation by the British Association for the Advancement of Science - that the public should be given fuller information about the nature of science - we present the concepts underpinning biology and a survey of its historical and philosophical basis.
1. What is science?; 2. Culture, knowledge and technology; 3. Classical roots; 4. Mediaeval views of the world; 5. The Scientific Revolution; 6. The 'Scientific Revolution' in biology; 7. Aristotle's biology; 8. How different are organisms from inanimate objects?; 9. Cell theory and experimental physiology: new ideas in a changing society; 10. Embryos and entelechy; 11. Spontaneous generation; 12. The evolution of Darwinism; 13. The great heredity debate; 14. Evolutionary theory attains maturity; 15. The problem of purpose; 16. The scientific status of biology; Appendix: science and philosophy, Philosophies of science and scientific practice, The nature of scientific theories, Theory structure and theory change, Experiments, Models; Bibliography; Index of names; Index of subjects