1. What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea
or experience and conveying it into a book?
2. What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader?
My book is about all of the ways that scientists embrace the rigor of testing scientific theories, and how often scientific theories fail. But that is not a bad thing because it can lead to great scientific progress. Uncertainty is not to be feared, but is rather a part of how scientists come to understand the natural world. Gathering evidence that increases the warrant for your theory is an awesome thing. What is really great about scientists is that they have an ethos that is embedded in a set of practices that allow them to keep one another honest. A good scientist is always answerable to the evidence. My targeted reader would be those who care about science. This includes not just scientists and philosophers, but really anyone who is concerned about the recent assault on science.
That science is one of the greatest inventions of the human mind. It is a wonderful way of making sure that we aren't just fooling ourselves into believing something just because we want to. We have to be humble and curious before nature. We can achieve great things if we allow ourselves to follow the evidence and not just assume that we already know the right answer.
Always keep your reader in mind. When I am writing about complex ideas I constantly ask myself "what would a reader know at this point and what questions might they have?" By putting myself in the reader's shoes I can anticipate what they need to know next. This means that even when I am discussing something difficult, I can take the reader right along with me.
I think there will always be a market for books, but the big New York publishers are increasingly afraid of anything that isn't a guaranteed bestseller. That is unfortunate and it is why I think there is a great and continuing role for small presses and university presses. My own publisher, MIT Press, is a model of academic rigor, innovation, and appeal to a trade audience. I wish that more publishers would adopt that model, and I think that the business side of things would follow.
Making it rigorous enough for the philosophers, but comprehensible enough for the lay reader. That was my constant challenge. It took me three years, and about 10 from-the-ground-up redrafts, to get there.
7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
8. How do we bridge the science literacy gap?
Interview With: Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University, and an Instructor in Ethics at Harvard Extension School. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and has taught philosophy at Colgate, Tufts, Simmons, and Boston University. A black belt martial artist, he lives with two German Shepherds and the rest of his family just outside Boston. For more info, see: www.leemcintyrebooks.com