Ferris, Timothy. The science of liberty: democracy, reason, and the laws of nature, 2010.


Recent events and thinkers have instigated a view to the effect that Science and Enlightenment are not what they are touted to be, and that there has been no progress in the human condition in the past two centuries.  In this thoughtful book Ferris gives the lie to claims that diminish science, enlightenment and progress. He reaffirms how Enlightenment could not have occurred without science. But I wonder if anyone can tell if this will be so in the future also. Scientifically neutral or less awakened societies may adopt the framework of freedom and equality. It is not impossible to imagine nations like Bhutan and Lapland adopting Enlightenment principles. The book’s contention that “Liberalism creates the political environments that best facilitate scientific inquiry” may be too sweeping a generalization. Let us not forget  scientific advances in the Soviet Union and in Communist China, One may wonder if liberalism is a necessary condition for the growth of science. Dictatorial regimes can whip up citizens into scientific research or entice them into it with substantial subsidies, while suppressing Enlightenment values as mischievous important from the West to uproot ancient local cultures. Though recent upheavals in the world make one wonder about these,  this is an important and  much-needed book as it articulates with erudition  the values and virtues of Science and Enlightenment intelligently and persuasively in a world which has been blinded by the rhetoric of post-modernism and multiculturalism into imagining that science is simply an imperialist construct and Enlightenment unsuitable for many cultures.

April 2010

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