Wondrous Truths

Wondrous Truths : The Improbable Triumph of Modern Science

3.15 (13 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 11 business days
When will my order arrive?


A fresh, daring, and genuine alternative to the traditional story of scientific progress.

Explaining the world around us, and the life within it, is one of the most uniquely human drives, and the most celebrated activity of science. Good explanations are what provide accurate causal accounts of the things we wonder at, but explanation's earthly origins haven't grounded it: we have used it to account for the grandest and most wondrous mysteries in the natural world.

Explanations give us a sense of understanding, but an explanation that feels right doesn't mean it is true. For every true explanation, there is a false one that feels just as good. A good theory's explanations, though, have a much easier path to truth. This push for good explanations elevated science from medieval alchemy to electro-chemistry, or a pre-inertial physics to the forces underlying nanoparticles. And though the attempt to explain has existed as long as we have been able to wonder,
a science timeline from pre-history to the present will reveal a steep curve of theoretical discovery that explodes around 1600, primarily in the West.

Ranging over neuroscience, psychology, history, and policy, Wondrous Truths answers two fundamental questions - Why did science progress in the West? And why so quickly? J.D. Trout's answers are surprising. His central idea is that Western science rose above all others because it hit upon successive theories that were approximately true through an awkward assortment of accident and luck, geography and personal idiosyncrasy. Of course, intellectual ingenuity partially accounts for this
persistent drive forward. But so too does the persistence of the objects of wonder. Wondrous Truths recovers the majesty of science, and provides a startling new look at the grand sweep of its biggest ideas.
show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 264 pages
  • 147 x 214 x 26mm | 398g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 3
  • 0199385076
  • 9780199385072
  • 1,153,030

Table of contents

Ch 1 Wonder and the Feeling of Understanding

Ch 2 Explanatory Fluency and the False Climb

Ch 3 The Biology Behind the Feeling

Ch 4 Believing the Best Explanation

Ch 5 Good Theories, Lucky Hunches

Ch 6 Newton's Hunch

Ch 7 Conclusion


show more

Review quote

"J.D. Trout proposes a fascinating, controversial, brilliant explanation for why modern science took off in the seventeenth century and never looked back. The Scientific Revolution was due, in his telling, not to the discovery of an amazing new methodological rule or form of social organization but rather to simple good luck: it was a matter of the right people probing the right ideas in the right way. Essential reading for historians and philosophers of science and highly recommended to anyone interested in the rise of modern science." -- Michael Strevens, New York University

"The principal idea of this short but entertaining popular book is that the standard narrative about how science arose across Europe, the one that tells us progress in scientific discovery during the seventeenth century was the result of the inevitable march of scientific method, is incorrect. Rather than being the result of sustained and diligent application of method, successful science is a consequence of hitting upon correct theories through a mixture of accident, luck, geography, and personal idiosyncrasy.... this is a very nice book advocating an original approach to how science got from there to here. I strongly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in history and/or philosophy of science." -- Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"[I]n in the general motivation and aim of this book, I think Trout gets it entirely correct. Trout is at pains to articulate how precarious our epistemic position really is. By emphasizing the contingency of scientific theorizing, Trout points out how hard-won our theoretical knowledge is and consequently how precious it is. The epistemic location in which we now find ourselves was not inevitable, and we should take seriously the luck and serendipity that delivered us here. Understood this way, and understood as directed at those not already familiar with the idea that science is as much a product of contingency as of insight, the book offers an important and helpful viewpoint." -- Metascience
show more

About J. D. Trout

J.D. Trout is Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Loyola University in Chicago. His previous books include Measuring the Intentional World, Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment, and The Empathy Gap. He has been interviewed in The New York Times, on Latino USA, and Martha Stewart Radio, and has written for the Chicago Tribune and Psychology Today.
show more

Rating details

13 ratings
3.15 out of 5 stars
5 23% (3)
4 8% (1)
3 31% (4)
2 38% (5)
1 0% (0)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X