Social Research Announces Publication of its Spring Issue ERRORS: Consequences of Big Mistakes in the Natural and Social Sciences Vol. 72 No. 1 (Spring 2005), ISSN 0037-783X, ISBN 1-933481-00-5

Guest editor: Gerald Holton, Mallinckrodt Research Professor of Physics and Research Professor of History of Science, Harvard University

Truth is a complicated notion, and the pursuit of truth is fraught with slips, missteps, challenges, and overturned beliefs. In seeking truth we inevitably find error, the “unpleasant but unavoidable cousin of scientific research…

[a] sort of entropy tax that attaches itself almost automatically during any effort intending to do good work.” So writes Gerald Holton in his introduction to Errors, a special issue of Social Research, published by the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science at the New School University,

This special issue features eleven original essays by leading scholars in the natural and social sciences, examining the crucial role of what Holton calls the big error in the progress of science:

“Of all the blunders that beset the labors of scientists, there is one type that seems to me the least discussed yet the most fascinating. It is the big error, so big that only a very good natural or social scientist can commit it-but which, far from stopping the progress of science, even propels it eventually to a major advance. It is an ultimately fruitful mistake, close to a proposition ascribed to Francis Bacon: Truth comes more easily out of error than out of confusion.”

The authoritative essays in Errors, all of which examine the role of scientific error in the progress of science, cover a cross-section of fields in both the natural and social sciences, and are written by eleven leading scholars in or historians of those fields. For more information and to order, visit our Web site at or call us at (212) 229-5776 x3122.

Table of Contents

Introductory Papers Gerald Holton: Guest Editor’s Introduction Arien Mack: Editor’s Introduction

Lorraine Daston: Scientific Error and the Ethos of Belief

Part I: Errrors in the Natural Sciences Lawrence Badash: Becquerel’s Blunder Peter Galison: Author of Error Owen Gingerich & James R. Voelkel: Tycho & Kepler: Solid Myth versus Subtle Truth Sungook Hong: Marconi’s Error: The First Transatlantic Wireless Telegraphy in 1901 Alan J. Rocke: In Search of El Dorado: John Dalton and the Origins of the Atomic Theory Edward O. Wilson: Kin Selection as the Key to Altruism: Its Rise and Fall

Part II: Errors in the Social Sciences William J. Baumol: Errors in Economics and Their Consequences Gerd Gigerenzer: I Think, Therefore I Err Kenneth Prewitt: The Two Projects of the American Social Sciences Neil J. Smelser: The Questionable Logic of “Mistakes” in the Dynamics of Knowledge Growth in the Social Sciences