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A Textbook Project (really, it’s not as dull as you imagine!)

One of the challenges of being a writer is having too many interesting projects and not enough time. This is hardly the grounds for pity. Nobody feels sorry for the kid in a candy shop with a five dollar bill. And while I have a non-fiction project in the works (Behind the Carbon Curtain: The Energy Industry, Political Censorship and Free Speech, under contract with University of New Mexico Press) and my first novel (Dose Unto Others, a noir mystery involving a cop-turned-exterminator), I’ve never written a textbook. And as a professor, one thing I know is that textbooks are generally awful. So, I’m working with our philosopher of science, Franz-Peter Griesmaier, in teaching an undergraduate course and collaborating on a textbook.

It is our considered opinion that all of the current texts are terrible. Heck, most of them don’t even include sections on such central matters as the nature of experiments. The problem is that texts in the philosophy of science tend to be written by: 1) a bevy of experts with weak editing, such that each chapter is a descent into some arcane aspect of science, 2) a scientist who knows one field of study and tries to cram everything into that context, or 3) a philosopher who adores the abstract elements of philosopher and has zero experience with what scientists actually do.

So, F-P and I are planning to remedy this unfortunate situation! We’re actually writing a draft of the text as we go along with the course, with lots of good philosophy (F-P’s insights) and plenty of keen examples (my contributions). And, we’re giving the students credit for providing feedback on the chapters, so we’re hoping that our revision will address the issues raised by actual students—a crazy idea. Sometimes, our terminology/jargon is confusing, sometimes our examples are a bit off-target, and sometimes we drift into stuff that intrigues us but doesn’t connect to students.

We’re thinking that by sometime in the summer, we’ll delve into the student feedback and have a pretty decent second draft of a prospective text. And then there’s that small matter of finding a publisher…

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