Wavell Cowan’s New Book “Escaping an Evolutionary Dead-End” and His Zest for Scientific Thinking … a review by Nat Frothingham

Posted by the Montpelier Bridge on December 5, 2014 in 2014 Issue

“Inventor, thinker, scientist, businessman, problem-solver, active citizen, writer — Moretown, Vt. resident Wavell F. Cowan comes very close to being the ideal Renaissance man.”

“Now, Cowan has written a book drawing on his varied experiences as a scientist, inventor, businessman and active citizen. “Escaping an Evolutionary Dead-End” is Cowan’s meditation on the need to employ scientific thinking not just where scientific thinking has been typically employed. Yes, it’s Cowan’s view that we’re in a current dead-end rut. But he argues we can get out of that rut. And the question he asks is this, Why can’t we apply scientific thinking as we tackle such current social problems as education, the economy, health care and the environment?”

“Cowan is convinced of the power of rigorous scientific thinking and he wonders aloud about why scientific thinking has been confined to science. Says Cowan, “The scientist knows that every time he runs an experiment he will learn something. It’s the learning that allows you to take the next step. … But the world of politics is different. “No one wants to learn anything. They want to justify what they did. They want to justify what they are doing.”

“Today Americans are looking out at their country with profound skepticism.  Few traditional institu-tions — the free press, the church, the U.S. Congress, our once-great universities — have escaped serious criticism, even censure.

Wavell Cowan’s book comes along at a time of much-needed and serious introspection.  Is Cowan right in asserting that small is now better than large?  Is he right in arguing that we can adopt rigorous scientific thinking to address our difficult problems in education, the economy, health care and the environment?

Whether he is right or wrong on these issues is beside the point because the point is this: Cowan is raising critical questions that we dare not ignore.”