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Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality Hardcover – August 23, 2011
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"John Grant is the living heir of Martin Gardner. He delivers the facts and suffers no fools." --Gregory Frost, author of Shadowbridge
"This is the book you've been waiting for. Timely, encyclopedic, and compulsively readable, Denying Science makes sense of the whole ugly business of science denial. Buy two and send one to your congressman." --Michael Swanwick, author of Dancing with Bears and Bones of the Earth
"A timely and intelligent dissection of all that is wrong with popular responses to science. This articulate and impassioned account of the workings of the world should be required reading for decision-makers everywhere. Hang on: that's all of us." --Keith Brooke, PhD, author, The Accord, Genetopia, and alt.human
"Packed with damning facts and deadly wit, this book shows how we're being lied to on an industrial scale. A fine piece of intellectual anti-virus software!" --Ken MacLeod, science fiction writer
"For the past few years, John Grant has been intrepidly documenting instances of bogus, corrupted, and discarded science. Now he's back with perhaps the best of the lot: Denying Science. As topical and as cutting as past volumes have been, Denying Science gets to the heart of the problem in today's world—and does so with fascinating, brilliantly written accounts that may curl your toes but also contain elements of humor and absurdity. Highly recommended." --Jeff VanderMeer, World Fantasy Award winner, author of The Steampunk Bible
About the Author
John Grant is the author of more than seventy books, including the critically acclaimed Discarded Science, Corrupted Science, and Bogus Science. In addition to his popular science writing, Grant is a prolific science fiction and fantasy writer. He has won two Hugo Awards, the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Award, and a number of other international literary awards. He coedited with John Clute The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and wrote all three editions of The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters; both encyclopedias are standard reference works in their field. Under his real name, Paul Barnett, he has written several books and run the world-famous fantasy-art-book imprint Paper Tiger, for this latter work winning a Chesley Award and a nomination for the World Fantasy Award. For more on this prolific author, see www.johngrantpaulbarnett.com.
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From what I can see, he seems to be quiet a robust writer, publishing over 70 books according to his Amazon page. Given this, if I were able to speak to him directly my own recommendation would be that he spend more time organizing and proofreading his writing. While the content is good, the rather disjointed style plagued with quasi-frequent typos (not as to be glaring, but definitely noticeable) definitely distract from the reader's enjoyment and edification. Had he written perhaps 7-8 fewer books, and spent 10% more time fine-tuning the others, they would greatly benefit from the extra attention.
This book is a great way to hear the other side of popular scientific topics that have hit the news in the last 5 years. With FOX news and media outlets focusing on the big controversial story over actual scientific fact, this book is a necessary response everyone should read.
The greenhouse effect, autism linked to vaccinations, creationism and AIDS controversies to name a few. With 38 pages of citations and a huge bibliography the book has its fair share of sources and proof. The book reads like a very good essay on each subject that culls together many bits and pieces to strengthen the authors arguments. This tends to read as if the author doesn't know much for himself, but it's necessary in order to speak towards such edgy issues of today.
This is a quick read that doesn't spend much time on issues, but rather lays down an argument and slam dunks it. At times this can read a bit slanted, something similar to a politicians take on an issue, but many of the points made in this book I was unaware of. I think this book shouldn't be read as an end all be all on every issue, but it makes some very interesting connections and brings up some great points many are unaware of.
Much like "The Wrecking Crew" or other political spin books, this book does ridicule and make fun of those that go against the books arguments. I tended to read them as funny knocks for entertainment value than debasing comments to strengthen the argument. That said because it strays from fact with opinion in this regard the book loses some of its argumentative strength. Be it as it may, the facts remain the same, and I'd be hard pressed to not recommend this book.
This is exactly the kind of book we need to educate intelligent readers on the problem. Many smart people believe the nonsense and I know that because I know many of them. This book does not claim to be a comprehensive defense of biological evolution or climate science or any other topic it touches upon and it should not be judged as such. What it attempts to do, which is skewer the deniers, it does very well. Besides it was fun to read. Highly recommended.
To the completely uniformed, Grant may at first appear to have a massive chip on his shoulder. Pick your target. Pseudoscientists. Politicians. Clergy. Moral extremists. No one escapes the wrath of his prolific ire. (Thankfully, I had been given a bit of a `heads up' as to what to expect.) But, reading between the lines, I think the discerning mind can understand and appreciate the man's obvious frustration with a world that seems to have turned its back on not only science but also clear, logical thinking.
Topics such as evolution and medicines and global warming aren't the kinds of subjects that can be communicated and absorbed quickly. The underlying science is given short shrift in much of the mainstream, ten-second-sound-bite media. As a consequence, much of the intellectual pursuits that goes hand-in-hand with establishing sound judgment gets convenient lip service if any exploration whatsoever in most popular publications of the day. Either that, or the real scientific back-up is ignored completely in favor of contradicting pseudo-science or featuring `prominent experts' who have no legitimate background in their supposed area of expertise.
As the book's subtitle suggests, these media tactics provide the foundation for misinformed "conspiracy theories" which get more exposure because they might appease a certain political persuasion or they might - dare I say? - be even more sensational than what documented evidence supports. Reality is no longer the accepted end product of news or information that's bought and sold on behalf of the distorter's bottom line profitability or marketplace reputation. Science has become a commodity, bought and sold to the highest bidder, and the consequence is that our world may be going to hell in a hand-basket but no one will notice until solutions are, simply, just too late to do any good.
That's what I take away from a book like DENYING SCIENCE. Sure, the author can throw down `snark' like nobody's business, but the far more meaningful conclusion here for me is that money corrupts, it corrupts absolutely, and who is left to look out for the uninformed masses when the last bastion of sanity - the world of science - has given way to commercial, theological, and political influence? Scientists are supposed to be scientists, not economists speaking on behalf of their own personal interest in meteorology; not representatives and senators with law degrees deciding they know more about cardiology than does a cardiologist; not lobbyists representing the needs of their corporations in matters best left to the best-trained, best-disciplined climatologists.
Does Grant go overboard in his criticisms of the media? Well, sure, there are those of us who do strive for some kind of balance in our influences, but balance isn't a desire necessarily sought by any singular political or ideological position. Of course, I'm not talking about "let's balance bad science with good science." Actually, I'm referring to the last significant section of DENYING SCIENCE where Grant goes to great lengths to point out specific science-deniers or science-manipulators in the media. I have absolutely no problem with these folks being called out; what I would've liked to see, however, is a following section specifically highlighting the best places to go for reasoned and accurate scientific information on the web, in magazines, in newspapers, etc. As I mentioned at the start of this review, science has never been my forte; I need to pointed and prodded in the right direction sometimes, and having a resource of outlets Grant feels strongly qualified would've been a nice addition. Sure, I can uncover many of them through careful and deliberate rereading of his book or his citations; I only offer it as a suggestion hoping that perhaps others, like myself, might post suggestions in the `comments thread' accompanying my review.
It's a meaty book that, quite frankly, is properly not for the uniformed. Rather, it's a grand expose (with facts included) in some of the most controversial subjects facing and influencing society today. Faith. The law. Medicines and healthcare. AIDS. Global warming. Education. Evolution. Eugenics. Parts of it were a bit treacherous for my unscientific mind, but, as I said, Grant's central theme - the pitfalls of having the truly uniformed leading the masses - comes through loud and clear. His passion for clear thinking wins the day ... maybe not the `war with words' yet ... but it's certainly an impressive opening salvo.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the folks at Prometheus Books provided me with a press copy of DENYING SCIENCE for the purposes of this review.