Author(s): Bernard Beckett
'What is it all for? Why are we here?' Bernard Beckett , was awarded a Royal Society Fellowship for Teachers of Maths, Science and Technology in 2005, during which he worked at the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Evolution. During that year he found himself asking why some cultural myths and stories were still so powerful, so moving, so believable, given that science often claims to offer the rational, final explanation for many aspects of nature. Beckett, one of our most popular fiction writers for young adults, dazzles readers again with a large swing in focus for his writing career. His first non-fiction book, The Art of Science asks: how much can science really tell us about ourselves? What role does myth, fiction, legend , indeed, all story-telling still have? In the age of mapping the genome and explorations of artificial intelligence this book is a storyteller's take on religious controversies, ancient philosophers, scientific secrets and gender wars. Beckett brings not only his gifts as a wordsmith, but also his extensive abilities as a teacher to bear on this manuscript. He is a powerful, persuasive communicator, who writes in the contemporary vein of popular science authors like Matt Ridley, Steven Pinker, and Jared Diamond. The Art of Science is a history of the philosophy of Western science, its divisions and schools or developments, beginning with the ancient Greeks, and taking us right up to current debates. The questions that drive Bernard in this work are complex, knotty, searching: "Can science ever get inside this business of making meaning of our lives? Can it provide us with our ethical systems, or explain to us how to go about living a truly satisfying life?" The driving questions are serious, yet Beckett writes with wit and in a dexterously conversational style. He leavens his history lessons with humour, contemporary expression, and lively, tangible comparisons and illustrating examples. He also brings the reader into more contemporary arguments about topics like the nature of consciousness and evolutionary biology: areas that can provoke as much impassioned argument as the theory of evolution versus creationism. The summaries of intellectual movements are informative and useful, both for novice or lay readers of popular science, and for scientists who may want to read outside their own specialisations. Bernard is refreshingly sceptical about all sorts of fundamentalism, scientific or religious, yet concedes that the sacred is personal, and all our stories about why we are here, what existence means, are an integral part of what makes us human. First published August 2007.
Shortlisted for Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize 2009.
Bernard Bec kett was awarded a Royal Society Fellowship for Teachers of Maths, Science and Technology in 2005, during which he worked at the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Evolution. That year, he found himself looking for a way to combine his passions for science, philosophy and storytelling. Falling for Science is his first non-fiction book. He's written several novels, won many awards for his fiction. His latest novel Genesis was also written as a result of his time at the Allan Wilson Centre. This 'otherworldly' sci-fi thriller was winner of the Young Adult Fiction category in the NZ Post 2007 Book Awards.