10 books like The Knowledge Machine

By Michael Strevens,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Knowledge Machine. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Scientist in the Crib

By Alison Gopnik, Patricia K. Kuhl, Andrew N. Meltzoff

Book cover of The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us about the Mind

I have always been fascinated, and read a lot about, how much babies learn during their first year, but this book still captivated and surprised me. It reads like a journey into a baby’s world. The authors’ perspective helped me notice and appreciate even more the seemingly small but clever things my babies did every day and, ultimately, see them as competent little people and trust their learning process. The Scientist in the Crib won’t give you any specific how-tos, but if you wish you knew what your baby is thinking, this book is for you.

The Scientist in the Crib

By Alison Gopnik, Patricia K. Kuhl, Andrew N. Meltzoff

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Scientist in the Crib as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This exciting book by three pioneers in the new field of cognitive science discusses important discoveries about how much babies and young children know and learn, and how much parents naturally teach them. It argues that evolution designed us both to teach and learn, and that the drive to learn is our most important instinct. It also reveals as fascinating insights about our adult capacities and how even young children -- as well as adults -- use some of the same methods that allow scientists to learn so much about the world. Filled with surprise at every turn, this vivid,…


The Origin of Concepts

By Susan Carey,

Book cover of The Origin of Concepts

I’m interested in how mathematicians create mathematics but this book made me realize that learning mathematics is also a form of creativity. Each of us has created our understanding of mathematics as we were growing up. We are all creative!  

What is amazing about this book is that even children as young as six months possess rudimentary mathematical concepts, in particular, the concept of number. (Actually, Carey shows children have two distinct ways of thinking about numbers). The concept of number is built-in. That’s amazing to me! The mastery of counting numbers, 1,2,3,… is a great creative leap in the development of the child. This leap is followed by a series of further amazing accomplishments, for example, the insight that a fraction like 2/3, is a completely new kind of number (and not just a problem in division). How do kids manage to accomplish such radical changes in their concept…

The Origin of Concepts

By Susan Carey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Origin of Concepts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Only human beings have a rich conceptual repertoire with concepts like tort, entropy, Abelian group, mannerism, icon and deconstruction. How have humans constructed these concepts? And once they have been constructed by adults, how do children acquire them? While primarily focusing on the second question, in The Origin of Concepts , Susan Carey shows that the answers to both overlap substantially.

Carey begins by characterizing the innate starting point for conceptual development, namely systems of core cognition. Representations of core cognition are the output of dedicated input analyzers, as with perceptual representations, but these core representations differ from perceptual representations…


Education for Thinking

By Deanna Kuhn,

Book cover of Education for Thinking

Two skills fundamental to scientific reasoning are inquiry and argument. Inquiry is generating new information, and argument is using that information to justify and evaluate knowledge claims. Kuhn presents a framework for understanding these processes, as well as methods for teaching them. Her insights are grounded in science-education research demonstrating not only why inquiry and argument are challenging but also how they can be improved. Kuhn’s book fundamentally changed how I teach science to others. It provided me a way of organizing and motivating the various research methods I cover in my courses, as tools for building a collective body of knowledge.

Education for Thinking

By Deanna Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Education for Thinking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What do we want schools to accomplish? The only defensible answer, Deanna Kuhn argues, is that they should teach students to use their minds well, in school and beyond.

Bringing insights from research in developmental psychology to pedagogy, Kuhn maintains that inquiry and argument should be at the center of a "thinking curriculum"-a curriculum that makes sense to students as well as to teachers and develops the skills and values needed for lifelong learning. We have only a brief window of opportunity in children's lives to gain (or lose) their trust that the things we ask them to do in…


Science Denial

By Gale Sinatra, Barbara Hofer,

Book cover of Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do about It

If you value science, then you’ve probably puzzled over why other people don’t. Why won’t other people wear masks during a pandemic? Or buy genetically modified foods? Or vaccinate their children. Sinatra and Hofer provide answers by delving deep into the psychology of science denial. They explain the shortcuts we take when searching for scientific information, the misconceptions we hold about scientific knowledge, and the obstacles we face when changing our beliefs and attitudes about scientific topics. From their synthesis of empirical research to their consideration of real-life dilemmas, Sinatra and Hofer provide a compelling account of the public’s fraught relationship with science, as well as practical advice for improving it.

Science Denial

By Gale Sinatra, Barbara Hofer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Science Denial as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How do individuals decide whether to accept human causes of climate change, vaccinate their children against childhood diseases, or practice social distancing during a pandemic? Democracies depend on educated citizens who can make informed decisions for the benefit of their health and well-being, as well as their communities, nations, and planet. Understanding key psychological explanations for science denial and doubt can help provide a means for improving
scientific literacy and understanding-critically important at a time when denial has become deadly. In Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It, the authors identify the problem and why it…


Against Method

By Paul Feyerabend,

Book cover of Against Method: Outline of an Anarchist Theory of Knowledge

Read it to jolt you out of thinking that there is a Scientific Method like the one you heard about in high school chemistry. Feyerabend was trained as a physicist, and knew how scientists actually argue, as he shows here in a startling analysis of Galileo’s Dialogue.

Against Method

By Paul Feyerabend,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Against Method as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Contemporary philosophy of science has paid close attention to the understanding of scientific practice, in contrast to the previous focus on scientific method. Paul Feyerabend's acclaimed work, which sparked controversy and continues to fuel fierce debate, shows the deficiencies of many widespread ideas about the nature of knowledge. He argues that the only feasible explanation of any scientific success is a historical account, and that anarchism must now replace rationalism in the theory of knowledge. This updated edition of this classic text contains a new foreword by Ian Hacking, a leading contemporary philosopher of science, who reflects on Feyerabend's life…


The Scientific Method

By Henry M. Cowles,

Book cover of The Scientific Method: An Evolution of Thinking from Darwin to Dewey

Where and why did the modern idea of “the scientific method” show up? The somewhat disturbing answer is that it emerged from highly rhetorical attempts—mainly in one U.S. pop sci magazine in the early twentieth century—to distance wonderful “science” (in its modern sense, which was invented in the 1870s) from anything merely humanistic. The details of this hidden history leave you with the vertiginous sense that the very words we use in this areascience, rational, evidence, know—constitute a kind of fog of evidence-free non-rational assumptions.

The Scientific Method

By Henry M. Cowles,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Scientific Method as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The surprising history of the scientific method-from an evolutionary account of thinking to a simple set of steps-and the rise of psychology in the nineteenth century.

The idea of a single scientific method, shared across specialties and teachable to ten-year-olds, is just over a hundred years old. For centuries prior, science had meant a kind of knowledge, made from facts gathered through direct observation or deduced from first principles. But during the nineteenth century, science came to mean something else: a way of thinking.

The Scientific Method tells the story of how this approach took hold in laboratories, the field,…


The Demon-Haunted World

By Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan,

Book cover of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

The Demon-Haunted World is really the bible of science-based skepticism, to use a somewhat ironic turn-of-phrase. It’s a text that helped form and shape the modern skeptic movement, reminding us that science isn’t some wet blanket thrown upon our fanciful beliefs, but a system that should bring us hope. The tone of the book is not as aggressive as Hitchens or Dawkins, but encourages skepticism and the embrace of the scientific method as only one of history’s premiere science communicators can. Through its exploration of science, pseudoscience, and the human struggle for knowledge, The Demon-Haunted World serves as a primer for anyone hoping to apply science and reason to a world that can seem mysterious and incomprehensible in its vastness. Personally, it has helped me distance myself from magical thinking and see the world more objectively.

The Demon-Haunted World

By Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Demon-Haunted World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A prescient warning of a future we now inhabit, where fake news stories and Internet conspiracy theories play to a disaffected American populace

“A glorious book . . . A spirited defense of science . . . From the first page to the last, this book is a manifesto for clear thought.”—Los Angeles Times

How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don’t understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the…


Science Fictions

By Stuart Ritchie,

Book cover of Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth

I love how Ritchie starts with a rather wry account, addressed directly to you as a would-be researcher, of the challenges and weirdness you’ll encounter as you launch into your own research. His own research helped sparked recognition of the ‘replication crisis,’ so he’s well placed to tell us about misguided practices and the sometimes wicked deeds of researchers. More happily, he describes how we can return to the sound foundations of good scientific practice. A current term for that is ‘Open Science.’

Science Fictions

By Stuart Ritchie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Science Fictions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An insider’s view of science reveals why many scientific results cannot be relied upon – and how the system can be reformed.

Science is how we understand the world. Yet failures in peer review and mistakes in statistics have rendered a shocking number of scientific studies useless – or, worse, badly misleading. Such errors have distorted our knowledge in fields as wide-ranging as medicine, physics, nutrition, education, genetics, economics, and the search for extraterrestrial life. As Science Fictions makes clear, the current system of research funding and publication not only fails to safeguard us from blunders but actively encourages bad…


Mapping the Spectrum

By Klaus Hentschel,

Book cover of Mapping the Spectrum: Techniques of Visual Representation in Research and Teaching

The proverbial scientist at work conjures the image of a solitary investigator bent over a workbench cluttered with arcane instruments nestled among reams of scribbled notes just waiting to be transformed into creative answers to pressing questions about the natural world. The image's simplicity belies the complexity of the process it purports to represent. Adding descriptions of the what, how, and why of scientific inquiry, observation, and analysis still misses a crucial element that makes the improvement, dissemination, and acceptance of new knowledge possible, namely the active behind-the-scenes collaboration between scientists and the illustrators, photographers, printers, and other artisans who use visual representation to shape and successfully communicate that knowledge. 

Mapping the Spectrum is not just an exhaustive and illuminating history of spectrum analysis.  In it, author Klaus Hentschel brilliantly exposes the essential role of visual culture in bringing this all-important tool of modern science to useful life.  He has…

Mapping the Spectrum

By Klaus Hentschel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mapping the Spectrum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ever since the boom of spectrum analysis in the 1860s, spectroscopy has become one of the most fruitful research technologies in analytic chemistry, physics, astronomy, and other sciences. This book is the first in-depth study of the ways in which various types of spectra, especially the sun's Fraunhofer lines, have been recorded, displayed, and interpreted. The book assesses the virtues and pitfalls of various types of depictions, including hand sketches, woodcuts,
engravings, lithographs and, from the late 1870s onwards, photomechanical reproductions. The material of a 19th-century engraver or lithographer, the daily research practice of a spectroscopist in the laboratory, or…


Research Methods in Psychology

By Beth Morling,

Book cover of Research Methods in Psychology: Evaluating a World of Information

Yes, this is a textbook but, if you are seeking a research design and methods text for psychology or a related discipline, this is easily my top choice. There are lots of references to topical stories to keep everything relevant for students. There’s a truckload of valuable stuff online to support both teachers and learners. This fourth edition is right up-to-the-moment, Chapter 3 especially so, as it explains three types of scientific claims, and four types of validity that researchers should aim to achieve. That may sound forbidding, but Morling’s examples and explanations are pleasingly accessible.  

Research Methods in Psychology

By Beth Morling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Research Methods in Psychology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Featuring an emphasis on future consumers of psychological research and examples drawn from popular media, Research Methods in Psychology: Evaluating a World of Information develops students' critical-thinking skills as they evaluate information in their everyday lives. The Fourth Edition of this best-selling text takes learning to a new level for both consumers and producers by offering new content, interactive learning, and online assessment to help them master the concepts.


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