The Science of Liberty

  • by Timothy Ferris
  • Narrated by Fred Stella
  • 13 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In his most important book to date, award-winning author Timothy Ferris — “the best popular science writer in the English language today” (Christian Science Monitor) — makes a passionate case for science as the inspiration behind the rise of liberalism and democracy. Ferris argues that just as the scientific revolution rescued billions from poverty, fear, hunger, and disease, the Enlightenment values it inspired has swelled the number of persons living in free and democratic societies from less than 1 percent of the world population four centuries ago to more than a third today. Ferris deftly investigates the evolution of these scientific and political revolutions, demonstrating that they are inextricably bound. He shows how science was integral to the American Revolution but misinterpreted in the French Revolution; reflects on the history of liberalism, stressing its widely underestimated and mutually beneficial relationship with science; and surveys the forces that have opposed science and liberalism — from communism and fascism to postmodernism and Islamic fundamentalism. A sweeping intellectual history, The Science of Liberty is a stunningly original work that transcends the antiquated concepts of left and right.

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Liberty: The Final Solution

Now that libertarianism has been taken over by the hysterical low-brows of the Tea Party, gun nuts, unscrupulous day traders, Fox News, and Christian millenarians, its kinder, gentler (and supposedly more worldly) believers are quite rightly alarmed. The problem is that libertarianism has so obviously devolved into dogma. It has become to Americans what poor Marx became to Stalinists, an ideology sustainable only through selective history, gross simplifications, and sheer magical incantation. Ferris follows the party line to a fault. Like all libertarians, he dwells in a simplified version of the 18th century (Locke, Adam Smith, Founding Fathers, etc.), fast-forwards the 19th and 20th centuries, and pops out of the historical delirium around 1980 when a fossilized Hayek, a sainted Isaiah Berlin, Thatcher, Nozick, and the Chicago School are bringing mankind back to its senses. Capitalism saved again! The usual dead horses are trotted out for a kick. Rousseau, Hegel, Derrida, and tenured English professors join Nazis, Stalinists and Islamic Fundamentalists in the dark legions of the ???irrational.??? What Ferris hopes to add to the party line, in addition to his doggone reasonableness, is the prestige value of science. He is boldly secular, attacks the statist tendencies of the Bush Administration, and adds a peculiar, redundant defense of global warming theory, as if he were actually attempting to preach to his fellow libertarians in the rabid profiteering camp. A worthy goal. He is a certifiable Good Guy. But he rarely strays outside of American propaganda or grapples with the dark contradictions of American ???liberty,??? from Calhoun on. He has yet to digest American pragmatism, from Dewey to Rorty, in which liberalism seriously confronts science and modernity. I am biased against his ideology, obviously. But this is a coherent audiobook overall, nicely read apart from a few howlers, e.g., Keynesians pronounced "kineezians," seemingly without malice aforethought.
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- Nelson Alexander

Science & Liberty: The Salvific Synergy

This book posits a historical virtuous circle: ( Political Liberty begets Intellectual Liberty begets Scientific Thinking begets Material Understanding begets Technology begets Military, Economic and Cultural Ascendance begets the Spread of Political Liberty) repeat to the stars and beyond...

Sounds good, and the author makes an interesting and reasonably compelling case, while not completely ignoring possibly countervailing forces, both external- such as reactionary Islamic fundamentalism- and internal- such as postmodernist epistemological relativism. The author argues that these 'counter cultural' movements are, each in its own way, inherently self limiting, whereas liberal democratic scientism is progressively self perpetuating.

The author also considers one other factor which might derail the virtuous circle: the possibility of technological self sabotage via global climate change. Unfortunately this section devolves into a rather credulous catechism on climate science bearing little relevance to the thesis of the book. Another chapter is devoted to a defense of the status of economics as an objective scientific enterprise; whatever one thinks about that, this chapter adds little to the book's argument.

Overall, though, I liked this book. It appealed to my scientific patriotism :) The Constitution contains only one mention of the word 'science' (in the section on patents,) but as this book shows it was a word often on the lips and in the thoughts of those who wrote it, and those who inspired it. But it was no oversight. All that was necessary was to enshrine liberty- freedom in thought and deed- and by man's very nature the flourishing of science- the mind's journey to a true encounter with the universe- was guaranteed.

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- Donald "?"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-08-2011
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio