Everyday Practice of Science

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | October 4, 2010 11:20 am

Picture 4The first book I’d like to highlight for Book Week is Frederick Grinnell’s Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic. This one came out last year, but I didn’t have a chance to read it until more recently. In short, it’s a fantastic example of science written for broad audiences.

Grinnell describes how real life researchers bring their own interests and passions to their work. Through the discovery process, they try to learn new things about the world. Through the credibility process, they try to convince other scientists that what they have learned is correct. Diversity of interests and backgrounds amongst researchers enhances both discovery and credibility. Achieving success depends on intuition and commitment as well as on logic and objectivity. Grinnell scratches the surface of the anonymous and somewhat boring “scientific method” and shows readers the excitement, risk and adventure underneath.

Grinnell does a wonderful job of making science relevant to those outside of a so-called academic bubble who are interested to learn more about the process. He also provides a multidimensional view of who scientists are and what drives them. Not surprisingly, Everyday Practice of Science was chosen to receive the Royal Society Prize for Science Books.

Also of interest to intersection readers, Grinnell eloquently closes with a piece on humility and the relationship between science and religion:

Given the global level of poverty, disease, and depletion of environmental resources, I worry that the scientific attitude conflates power with progress. Perhaps solving global problems will require scientific and religious attitudes–both types of faith–rather than one or the other.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Science and Religion

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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