- Hardcover: 294 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press; 1st edition (October 29, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594202303
- ISBN-13: 978-1594202308
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 122 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threa tens Our Lives Hardcover – October 29, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Although denialists, according to Specter, come from both ends of the political spectrum, they have one important trait in common: their willingness to replace the rigorous and open-minded skepticism of science with the inflexible certainty of ideological commitment. Specter analyzes the consequences of this inflexibility and draws some startling and uncomfortable conclusions for the health of both individuals and society. For example, though every reputable scientific study demonstrates the safety of major childhood vaccines, opponents of childhood immunization are winning the publicity war; childhood immunizations are tumbling and preventable diseases are increasing, often leading to unnecessary deaths. Specter, a New Yorker science and public health writer, does an equally credible job of demolishing the health claims made by those promoting organic produce and all forms of alternative medicine. Specter is both provocative and thoughtful in his defense of science and rationality—though he certainly does not believe that scientists are infallible. His writing is engaging and his sources are credible, making this a significant addition to public discourse on the importance of discriminating between credible science and snake oil. (Nov. 2)
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“Specter is both provocative and thoughtful in his defense of science and rationality—though he certainly does not believe that scientists are infallible. His writing is engaging and his sources are credible, making this a significant addition to public discourse on the importance of discriminating between credible science and snake oil.”—Publishers Weekly
“A lucid and insightful book about a very frightening and irrational phenomenon—the fear and superstition that threaten human science and progress. A superb and convincing work.”—Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker staff writer and author of Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point
“Denialism tells stories I know well, at least in outline. But Michael Specter very valuably gathers them under one roof and gives them a name. Specter describes the increasing public willingness to deny the hard-won facts of science in favor of myths and shoddy investigation. In the process, the denialists are enabling disease and poverty, denying the advances of science to those in need.”—David Baltimore, president emeritus, Biology California Institute of Technology
“We are bombarded with information and misinformation about the foods we eat, the medicines we take, the water we drink, the very air we breathe. Michael Specter shows us how to accurately assess the impact of science on these and other essential elements of our daily lives. Written in clear and accessible language, this uniquely valuable book explains an often confusing world."—Jerome Groopman, M.D., Recanati Professor, Harvard Medical School, author of How Doctors Think
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I really enjoyed reading it and think it might be eye-opening to some people. However I think it misses the psychology which enables these movements to grow, understanthing of which is the first necessary step to educate people and diffuse a more educated perspective.
The first few chapters of the book are interesting, and include an examination of the anti-vaccination movement, organic foods, and scientific advances in genetics and other areas. These chapters are filled with valuable information, but the information is not necessarily comprehensive.
Additionally, I don't necessarily agree with categorizing all those who disagree with, say vaccination OR genetically modified foods as Deniers. There are a great many folks, for example, who vaccinate their kids but shy away from genetically modified foods for a host of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with the scientific evidence or the lack thereof. For example, small farmers may very well object to companies that create a seed that can only grow with the use of the same company's pesticide for economic reasons. How to categorize such people? They must by his definition be anti-science, but this is not always the case.
In general the author seems to discuss very procovative issues in a way that seems to me to be over-generalized. In this way the book reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's tendency to find facts that suit his hypothesis. So again, while I tend to agree with the author's stance on many issues, I think the book was a sweeping over-generalization.
The book is written in an engaging style - and my only criticism is that I would have preferred a better finish.
There's a lot of truthiness out there, and sadly much of it is pushed by people like the soon-retiring Larry King and the also soon-retiring Oprah Winfrey. They feed into the belief that vaccines are dangerous, that vitamin pills are a great idea, and that personal experience is more important than scientific fact.
This book serves as a great remedy against truthiness. It exposes the lies of the anti-vax movement quite eloquently (and leaves me wondering what it's going to take for those people to wake up to sanity. What, you folks need another polio epidemic before reality sets in?), and tears apart alternative "medicine" for the total BS that it is.
If there's anywhere the book fails it's that the tone is sometimes a bit inconsistent and some might find it condescending. I'm also not entirely sure what the example of Vioxx at the beginning is supposed to be all about. Perhaps some cautionary tale that had the company been up front about the heart issues with the product, it might still be in use, just not with people who have heart problems.
I also would've liked to have seen a bit more about climate change denalism (especially as I have some thoughts on the issue that aren't entirely along the mainstream and it would've been nice to have seen arguments against what I think), and certainly something about evolution would be nice, but that's already been covered recently in a very good book by Lala Ward's husband.
Really this is a fine book, and though I doubt that the people who really subscribe to truthiness in their lives will read it, perhaps those of us who do read it will at least be better armed in dealing with their nonsense.
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