Knowledge Machine book jacket

The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science

Liveright, October 2020

During the seventeenth-century Scientific Revolution, a small handful of radical thinkers, among them Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton, hit upon a way of investigating the mysteries of the natural world – the motions of the planets, the behavior of gases, the inner springs of the human body – that would come to reveal the underlying principles that govern matter and mind. The Knowledge Machine asks what these thinkers, the first modern scientists, did differently, and why their innovations came so late in the course of human history. Challenging the conventional regard for science as a paragon of logic, The Knowledge Machine demonstrates that the invention of modern science required not more but less rationality. By willfully ignoring religion, aesthetic beauty, and especially philosophy, scientists embraced an unreasonably narrow method of inquiry, whose very narrowness channeled unprecedented energy into observation and experiment. The same force has driven the success of science ever since.

Liveright/W W Norton web page for the The Knowledge Machine

What It's About

Keep science irrational (at Aeon; a preview of the core idea of The Knowledge Machine)

Why Aristotle didn't invent modern science, at Big Think—an even shorter preview of the core idea


New Yorker review of The Knowledge Machine

New York Times review of The Knowledge Machine

Wall Street Journal review of The Knowledge Machine

Guardian review of The Knowledge Machine

Science review of The Knowledge Machine

Psychology Today review of The Knowledge Machine

Podcasts etc.

On Paradigm Shifters

On The Jim Rutt Show

With Ricardo Lopes at The Dissenter

With Ben Reinhardt at Idea Machines

And many more…


The highly effective irrationality of science, at the Brooklyn Public Library

Talk at the Royal Institution on some ideas in The Knowledge Machine

And a few more, posted here and there

Performance Art

The Playbook Versus the Knowledge Machine

Related Papers

Science Is Irrational—and a Good Thing, Too. To appear in Extreme Philosophy, Routledge, edited by Stephen Hetherington


Book page at