Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226476124 Will Publish November 2017
E-book $45.00 Available for pre-order. ISBN: 9780226500737 Will Publish November 2017

A Final Story

Science, Myth, and Beginnings

Nasser Zakariya

A Final Story

Nasser Zakariya

608 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226476124 Will Publish November 2017
E-book $45.00 ISBN: 9780226500737 Will Publish November 2017
Popular science readers embrace epics—the sweeping stories that claim to tell the history of all the universe, from the cosmological to the biological to the social. And the appeal is understandable: in writing these works, authors such as E. O. Wilson or Steven Weinberg deliberately seek to move beyond particular disciplines, to create a compelling story weaving together natural historical events, scientific endeavor, human discovery, and contemporary existential concerns.

In A Final Story, Nasser Zakariya delves into the origins and ambitions of these scientific epics, from the nineteenth century to the present, to see what they reveal about the relationship between storytelling, integrated scientific knowledge, and historical method. While seeking to transcend the perspectives of their own eras, the authors of the epics and the debates surrounding them are embedded in political and social struggles of their own times, struggles to which the epics in turn respond. In attempts to narrate an approach to a final, true account, these synthesizing efforts shape and orient scientific developments old and new. By looking closely at the composition of science epics and the related genres developed along with them, we are able to view the historical narrative of science as a form of knowledge itself, one that discloses much about the development of our understanding of and relationship to science over time.
Contents

Introduction

Part I
1. Varieties of Natural History: The Whole of the Natural and the Known
2. Dogmas of Unity and Questions of Expertise
3. The Many Faces of Force and the Mutability of Energy
4. Schisms

Part II
5. Undoing and Reassembling Scales and Histories
6. Other Emerging Genres of Synthesis: From the Fabulaic to the Foundational
7. Humanisms, Nuclear Histories, and Nuclear Ages
8. Scientific Myth and Mysticism

Part III
9. Scientific Tribes and Totalizing Myths
10. Cosmos and the Structure of “Epic Myth”
11. Political Cosmologies
12. A New Version of Genesis
Coda: Epic Humanisms

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Review Quotes
Deborah R. Coen, Yale University
A Final Story casts welcome new light on current debates over the ambition of writing human history on the grandest scale. Zakariya has laid bare the shared intellectual genealogy for projects as diverse as Big History, NASA’s search for extraterrestrial life, and the Superconducting Supercollider. This marvelously original book will change the way we think about cosmology’s modern history, from the nebular hypothesis to the Higgs boson.”
 
Steven J. Dick, Former NASA Chief Historian
“An original, stimulating, and thought-provoking book, which in addition to its narrative history, analyzes many themes, ranging from the relations among the sciences, to the social sciences and the implications for human action. It also addresses the ‘continuity problem’: whether the parts of universal history such as physical, biological and cultural can be connected in a meaningful way. The vast sweep of this history over two centuries allows the author to make connections never before realized.”
Eric J. Chaisson, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
"Nasser Zakariya has written an insightful, erudite, historical account of generalist scholars—the lumpers—who have tried mainly over the past century to unify science amidst the majority of specialist researchers—the splitters.  Of course, both lumpers and splitters are needed to gain ever-better approximations of reality, and Zakariya does a credible job relating the progress of the natural-science synthesizers.  Highly recommended to anyone seriously interested in the broadest view of the biggest picture."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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