Scientific nihilism is the widespread and ascendant view that the prospects for genuine understanding in scientific knowledge are distinctly negative. This view is especially characteristic of philosophy of science, and is reflected in a number of professional and popular doctrines. In the background is the growing perception that physical science is presently encountering the inherent limits of scientific understanding.
This book shows that the breakoff of narrative causal explanation in physics, although remarkable, is no basis for the negative view of scientific knowledge. It demonstrates that radiation and field phenomena, which include a wide array of enigmatic facts, are amenable to explanation even in their most puzzling details. Athearn responds fully to the assumption that narrative causal explanation in physics has suffered a permanent demise. Rejecting the dogma of a clean bifurcation of philosophy and natural science, he proposes a constructive rehabilitation of natural philosophy.
"This book is stimulating and enjoyable to read because it is strikingly original and builds a unified thesis on the importance of providing narrative causal accounts in the full explanation of physical systems. The topic is of fundamental significance to physical science, philosophy of science, and to human understanding generally. It has become clear that more abstractions in the form of simulations, models, or physical laws do not, by themselves, constitute full understanding. "—Tim Eastman, University of Maryland