A century ago, thoughtful people questioned how reality could agree with physical theories that keep changing, from a mechanical model of the ether to electric and magnetic fields, and from homogeneous matter to electrons and atoms. Today, concepts like dark matter and dark energy further complicate and enrich the search for objective reality. The Whole Truth is a personal reflection on this ongoing quest by one of the world’s most esteemed cosmologists.
What lies at the heart of physical science? What are the foundational ideas that inform and guide the enterprise? Is the concept of objective reality meaningful? If so, do our established physical theories usefully approximate it? P. J. E. Peebles takes on these and other big questions about the nature of science, drawing on a lifetime of experience as a leading physicist and using cosmology as an example. He traces the history of thought about the nature of physical science since Einstein, and succinctly lays out the fundamental working assumptions. Through a careful examination of the general theory of relativity, Einstein’s cosmological principle, and the theory of an expanding universe, Peebles shows the evidence that we are discovering the nature of reality in successive approximations through increasingly rigorous scrutiny.
A landmark work, The Whole Truth is essential reading for anyone interested in the practice of science.
“The objective reality of this book is that P. J. E. Peebles is an outstanding cosmologist and a fine writer. To learn what he sees as the objective reality of the universe, please read the book!”—Virginia Trimble, coeditor of The Sky Is for Everyone: Women Astronomers in Their Own Words
“Over the past hundred years, our understanding of the structure of our universe as a whole has developed enormously. No one is better qualified to describe these profound and remarkable changes than James Peebles, which he has achieved magnificently in The Whole Truth.”—Roger Penrose, author of Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe
“A fascinating and authoritative exploration of the development of physical cosmology by a giant of the field. The Whole Truth makes a compelling case for the power of the scientific method to lead us to the ultimate nature of reality. An engrossing read with deep philosophical insights that bed down in one’s mind.”—Hiranya Peiris, University College London and the Oskar Klein Centre, Stockholm
“Peebles shares refreshingly generous and open-minded reflections on major milestones in the physics community’s century-long efforts to learn about the structure and evolution of our universe.”—David Kaiser, author of Quantum Legacies: Dispatches from an Uncertain World
“Peebles gives us a fascinating firsthand account of how we came to our current ideas about the universe and its workings, and why they have become so compelling. In this thought-provoking book, he elegantly reveals the process of how science gets done and the intriguing way in which new ideas emerge and take hold.”—Jo Dunkley, author of Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide
“Written by one of the leading cosmologists of our time, this book presents a powerful argument for the objective reality of modern science. Elegantly written in a very personal style, The Whole Truth is sure to provoke thought, discussion, and controversy. A must-read for anybody interested in the truth of modern science.”—Jürgen Renn, author of The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene
“The emergence of a standard cosmological model is an amazing triumph. Peebles has been a creative force in this research for sixty years. He recounts the key stages in this enterprise: the missteps, the key controversies, and their gradual resolution, presenting them not only for their intrinsic interest but also as a case study in how the scientific community operates. No one else could have written with more authority on this theme. His book deserves wide readership.”—Martin Rees, author of On the Future and Our Cosmic Habitat
“The eminent physicist James Peebles proves Sidney Morgenbesser wrong when he quipped that pragmatism is all very well in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice. The Whole Truth is a superb insider’s account of the pragmatist idea that our best theories are approximations of objective reality.”—Cheryl Misak, author of Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers
“A unique and absorbing book. Peebles relates fascinating memories from six decades at the frontier of cosmology but is willing to ask deep questions about what we have really learned. Is there an objective reality that underpins our cosmological model and the observations that drive the theory? The book surveys what professional philosophers have had to say on this, but we also get the personal view of a scientist who shaped much of our current understanding of the universe.”—John A. Peacock, winner of the Shaw Prize and author of Cosmological Physics
“Written by one of the fathers of contemporary cosmology, this book provides an impressive contribution to a blossoming field of history and philosophy of cosmology.”—Michela Massimi, University of Edinburgh