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Hardcover Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future Book

ISBN: 0465013058

ISBN13: 9780465013050

Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future

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Book Overview

In his famous 1959 Rede lecture at Cambridge University, the scientifically-trained novelist C.P. Snow described science and the humanities as "two cultures," separated by a "gulf of mutual... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Trades polemic finger pointing for positive and practical optimism

Unlike Mooney's previous The Republician War on Science, this book isn't a polemic and will unlikely offend anyone. Instead, in a rare move, for commentary non-fiction actually focus on what can be done about the problem rather than an overdose of mockery. Perhaps the most surprising was the books focus of the New Atheists (Richard Dawkins and such) as being a problem for science. The argument (that they create unnecessay friction) was compelling and reasonable. At circa 130 pages of content the book is a fairly quick read, which is ideal. I prefer a short focussed thesis than a rambling tangent swinging piece. I admire Mooney and Kirshenbaum, for writing a book that attempts to unify and help, all too often authors attempt to offend and divide in the interests of attention and book sales. Highly recommended

Brief but compelling, balanced and informative argument

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Unlike others' complaints, I praise its brevity. In fact, I thought the book was dense with useful stories and talking points but without belaboring them. This is a strength of the book--and indeed something the authors suggest that scientists should become better skilled at. Most scientists who have not actively thought about such issues as relationships between science and the media and religion will probably pick up some interesting tidbits (e.g., Ben Stein was cast as the science teacher in the sitcom The Wonder Years because of his dry, deadpan, monotone voice/persona as if that's what typifies science teachers). As a scientist who enjoyed the book and embraces its conclusion, I was surprised to see that large number of negative reviews. But quick perusal of them suggests that the reviews are as politically biased and defensive as said reviewers' suggest the authors' of the book are. However, I viewed the authors' tone as balanced and rational. They take aim at many groups in society and lay some blame at each's doorstep (appropriately). Given the title though, the surprising main target of the authors is scientists. (Spoiler alert!) These lines may best summarize their conclusion: "Most of all, we need science to reestablish its core relevance to American life.... (p. 130). ... But the fact remains that scientists... know best what is being missed, why it matters, and indeed, how the science-society gap places our entire future at risk. Moreover they have the talent, the knowledge, and in many cases the resources to turn things around (p. 132)." In sum, the book contains a good mix of history, philosophy, current events and clear, concise prose as to make it a worthwhile read, especially scientists who care about increasing the scientific literacy of our citizens.

A Personal Epiphany

For many years I wondered why there seemed to be a disconnect between what scientists were stating vs. what the public thought they were saying. Nowhere is this more true than with global warming (climate change). Climate change has been extensively researched and the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that the observed modern day global warming is unprecedented and is very likely caused by humans. Although there is strong consensus among climate experts, many in the general public still think that these scientists are unsure about climate change and the role that humans have played in modern day global warming. Moooney and Kirshenbaum reveal that one problem is that the real science is primarily represented in peer-reviewed science journals but that these journals are typically not accessible to the general public. Global warming misinformation is primarily published on Web pages, blogs, television shows, radio, and other forms of mass media, all of which are much more accessible to the general public than scientific journals. The result is that the misinformation is reaching more people than the real science. As M & K point out, the world needs more Carl Sagans - scientists that are able to bridge this information gap. However, the Carl Sagans have been ostracized by their peers for talking down the science. For me, personally, it has been an epiphany. I no longer point the finger away from myself. This book has caused me to develop an extensive Website to educate the general public on climate change ([...]) and to be a daily poster on various climate-related blogs.

A 'must' for any concerned about the unscientific paths America is charting ahead

UNSCIENTIFIC AMERICA: HOW SCIENTIFIC ILLITERACY THREATENS OUR FUTURE offers important assessments from a journalist and author and a scientist who join forces to explain how religious ideologies and a range of influences have collaborated to create a society where science and mainstream American beliefs diverge. This is a 'must' for any concerned about the unscientific paths America is charting ahead - and who seek to remedy the breach. Both college-level and public libraries will welcome its debate.

The things it focuses on provide the value

First of all, there WAS a Republican War on Science. Some of it has ended. Marc Morano is no longer working for Senator Inhofe, he's out promoting anti-science in a PR venue, where he should have been all along. Sarah Palin is no longer governor. George Bush is no longer president. There is a possiblity of reviving the Congressional Office on Science and Technology. Triana, slandered as the Gorecam by the Republicans, may finally be launched - living proof the Republicans did not want real climate data. But this book is not a sequel to that book. It's a joint project - to pick up the pieces after the war and restore America's scientific prowess. Right now, it's borrowed - people come from other countries, work with each other at our universities, and if we're lucky, stay and help us stay ahead, and if we're not, go home. But at one point in the 50s and 60s the US was very pro-science. By focusing on one good science communicator, they were able to give a full picture - easy to grasp and remember. By focusing on one segment of science communication they found ineffective and even harmful, they were able to do the same thing. I don't really take sides - I'm not at all in agreement with Matt Nisbet, for instance. But I also think there's a blindness and an arrogance to the response of people like Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers that is proving Unscientific America's points, over and over. If you want to promote methodological materialism and a hands-off-excep-for-funding approach to science generally, why insist people also sign on to the bloodthirsty imperialism of a Sam Harrris or Chris Hitchens? Or restrict philosophy to Daniel Dennett's abbreviated academic positivism? That makes no sense at all, yet it's exactly what people like PZ are asking for when they ask "Is this book dead yet?" Overall I thought it was a great book, and if some people can't learn from it, I believe firmly that others can. And I think it will do a great deal of good in the long run. It took me quite a while to get and read this. I imagine Chris, at least, realized this would be a controversial book, and he's given as good as he's gotten, so I'm not reviewing it positively in any sympathy for him. I actually just think it's a well-written book, to the point, and fairly unique. I also think it speaks for people who aren't extroverted, arrogant or combative, but are having to do very difficult science outreach and have had the same sentiments Sheril and Chris express. I also think that what's actually going on - trashing the book because it's "accommodationist*" in one chapter, is behavior better suited to science denialists than scientists and science boosters. *and boy, does that epithet speak volumes about the clueless mentality behind it.
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