Alan N. Shapiro, Autonomy in the Digital Society

Blog and project archive about media theory, science fiction theory, and creative coding

Questioning Steven Hawking’s Scientific Discourse, by Marc Silver and Simon Schaffer

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Alan Shapiro: Most of this text is an interview-conversation between Professor Marc Silver of the University of Modena and Professor Simon Schaffer of Cambridge University that took place in Cambridge, UK in November 1995. It was originally published in Marc Silver’s book Arguing the Case: Language and Play in Argumentation (Chicago: Adams Press, 1996).

The decision to skip the step of OCR software conversion is intentional.

Marc Silver: I have decided to look briefly at the field of astro-physics and comment on how it is portrayed by its best-known representative, Steven Hawking. My interest is to see the extent to which his views on science and scientific methodology reflect a change in epistemological outlook, and what this change might consist in. Rather than centering my analysis on Hawking’s theories themselves, since these are easily reperable, I have chosen to introduce another voice into the argument, that of a colleague of Steven Hawking’s, Simon Schaffer, Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University. It is through Schaffer’s somewhat polemical return over Hawking’s position that I shall base this argument about argumentation.

In a conference held in May 1992 at Caius College, Cambridge University, Steven Hawking sets out to explain his position on science and the scientific method. The principal question he poses as a scientist, which is reflected equally in the main thesis of his best-seller, A Brief History of Time, is “how one can understand the Universe?” “What is the status and meaning of a general unified field theory – a theory of everything?” Hawking emphasizes the possible differences in method and approach between theoretical physics and other, more experimental sciences.










each science the changes in the previous 40 years are indefinitively


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