Timothy McGettigan ’95 PhD
Lexington Books, 2011
Truth, writes Timothy McGettigan, is a challenging subject.
It’s hard to get at, consuming the bulk of scientific endeavor for starters. It’s also hard to nail down, with paradigm shifts both altering our sense of reality while rattling our faith that something like the truth can be attained.
McGettigan, a professor of sociology at Colorado State University-Pueblo, makes an enjoyable and wideranging case for forging ahead. Drawing on the revelations of Galileo Galilei, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and others, he notes that the enterprise can be discouraging as old views—an earth-centered universe, a universe created in six days, classic physics—get knocked off by rebellious upstarts.
Moreover, he says, “no paradigm is perfect, they can all be improved.” But along the way, new explanations emerge for previously inexplicable facts.
“The advantage of the unending quest for scientific truth is that it elevates and inspires new thinking,” McGettigan writes.
Big thinking is also in our nature as a species that has evolved by both biological evolution and conscious thought. Quoth Karl Popper, the science philosopher to whom Good Science is dedicated: “All life is problem solving.”
In this spirit, McGettigan celebrates problematics—scientific endeavors that seem nearly impossible yet inspire us to reinvent reality. President John Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon was a problematic that helped turn the United States into the sole superpower and a leader of the information age.
McGettigan’s proposed problematic: the quest for artificial intelligence, which would help us create machines to probe the truth for us while helping us discover what it truly means to think.