Good Science for Social Research Methods
The Pursuit of Truth and the Evolution of Reality
By Timothy McGettigan
August 14, 2011
ISBN 0-7391-3677-1 / 978-0-7391-3677-5
Published by Lexington Books,www.lexingtonbooks.com,
a Division of Rowman & Littlefield
Good Science is an important new text for Social Research Methods courses because of its novel analysis of science, empirical facts, and the evolution of scientific truth. Whereas beginning in the 1990s postmodernism cast science and truth in a very negative light, Good Science develops an altogether different view of scientific truth-seeking. Using engaging and accessible prose, McGettigan reviews several of the most important breakthroughs in the history of science to illustrate that the pursuit of truth has often radically transformed conceptions of the cosmos while also instigating profound transformations in social reality. As Good Science examines the scientific triumphs of Galileo, Darwin, Einstein and others, McGettigan explains the process of “redefining reality”—or the way that agents are able to devise entirely new explanations for anomalous facts and, thereby, generate groundbreaking scientific truths.
In agreement with Karl Popper, Good Science contends that truth corresponds with the facts, however, McGettigan makes the additional observation that facts often change. Sometimes facts change as a result of the discovery of scientific anomalies, such as Galileo’s observation of Jupiter’s moons, or Darwin’s documentation of evolution among Galapagos finches. In other cases, facts change because individuals are motivated to transcend the boundaries of lived reality—as occurred during the 1960s space race when humans transcended the constraints of their terrestrial environs and reinvented themselves as extra-terrestrial travelers. Thus, truth must correspond with facts, however, the facts that define truth are often the imaginative products of inventive human agents.
Good Science offers a fascinating discussion of the way that science routinely transforms fantasies into reality. Through the magic of scientific discovery, the most mind-bending fantasies in one era—from Jules Verne’s Nautilus to Captain Kirk’s talking computer—become bedrock realities in succeeding eras. In agreement with Albert Einstein, Tim McGettigan argues that, when it comes to seeking new truths, imagination is often more important than knowledge.