- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 5, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143108115
- ISBN-13: 978-0143108115
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 127 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar's Search for Justice Reprint Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
New York Times Book Review
“[A] smart, delightful book. Galileo’s Middle Finger is many things: a rant, a manifesto, a treasury of evocative new terms (sissyphobia, autogynephyllia, phall-o-meter) and an account of the author’s transformation “from an activist going after establishment scientists into an aide-de-camp to scientists who found themselves the target of activists like me”--and back again... I suspect most readers will find that [Dreger’s] witnessing of these wild skirmishes provides a splendidly entertaining education in ethics, activism and science.”
"Dreger tells the story in her new book on scientific controversies, Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, an engrossing volume that is sure to undo any lingering notions that academic debate is the province of empiricists who pledge allegiance to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth... Dreger's clear and well-paced prose makes for compelling—and depressing—reading. If you believe what you were taught about scientific method, about old ideas giving way under the sway of new evidence, you're an idealist and you probably know that already. The truth is sometimes closer to the much-repeated notion that a new idea can't truly take hold until the people who held the old idea die."
"Galileo’s Middle Finger offers a trench-level account of several hot scientific controversies from the past 30 years, told with the page-turning verve of an exposé."
“Lying and deceit have been around for a long time—forever, probably—but what makes Dreger’s book so compelling is where she dug them up: among health activists, academics and ethicists who we normally associate with honesty and integrity…. Like her hero Galileo, Dreger believes that the ‘real’ truth does exist and we are all for the worse when we don’t seek it out. It is an argument that deserves more of our attention.”
“Dreger ends this powerful book by calling for her fellow academics to counter the ‘stunningly lazy attitude toward precision and accuracy in many branches of academia.’ In her view, chasing grants and churning out papers now take the place of quality and truth. It is a situation exacerbated by a media that can struggle when covering scientific controversies, and by strong pressures from activists with a stake in what the evidence might say. She argues, ‘If you must criticize scholars whose work challenges yours, do so on the evidence, not by poisoning the land on which we all live.’ There is a lot of poison in science these days. Dreger is right to demand better.”
Library Journal (starred review):
“Accomplishing deft journalistic storytelling, [Dreger] pursues relentlessly her thesis that neither truth nor justice can exist without the other and that empirical research is essential to democratic society. She challenges readers to recognize that the loudest voice is not necessarily right, the predominant view is not always correct, and the importance of fact-checking and defending true scholarship. A crusader in the mold of muckrakers from a century ago, Dreger doesn’t try to hide her politics or her agenda. Instead she advocates for change intelligently and passionately.”
Kirkus (starred review):
“Let us be grateful that there are writers like Dreger who have the wits and the guts to fight for truth.”
Dan Savage, founder of “It Gets Better” Project; author of American Savage:
“If there ever there were a book that showed how democracy requires smart activism and solid data—and how that kind of work can be defeated by moneyed interests, conservative agendas, inept governments, and duplicitous “activists”—this is it. Galileo’s Middle Finger reads like a thriller. The cliché applies: I literally couldn’t put it down. Alice Dreger leaves you wondering what’s going to happen to America if our universities continue to turn into corporate brands afraid of daring research and unpopular ideas about who we are.”
Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Emeritus, Harvard University:
“In this important work, Dreger reveals the shocking extent to which some disciplines have been infested by mountebanks, poseurs, and even worse, political activists who put ideology ahead of science.”
Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine:
“Galileo’s Middle Finger is a brilliant exposé of people that want to kill scientific messengers who challenge cherished beliefs. Dreger’s stunning research into the conflicts between activists and scholars, and her revelations about the consequences for their lives (including hers), is deeply profound and downright captivating. I couldn’t put this book down!”
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of The Blank Slate and How the Mind Works:
“In activism as in war, truth is the first casualty. Alice Dreger, herself a truthful activist, exposes some of shameful campaigns of defamation and harassment that have been directed against scientists whose ideas have offended the sensibilities of politicized interest groups. But this book is more than an exposé. Though Dreger is passionate about ideas and principle, she writes with a light and witty touch, and she is a gifted explainer and storyteller.”
Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and The World until Yesterday:
“Alice Dreger would win a prize for this year’s most gripping novel, except for one thing: her stories are true, and this isn’t a novel. Instead, it’s an exciting account of complicated good guys and bad guys, and the pursuit of justice.”
“Galileo’s Middle Finger is not, ultimately, about scientists versus activists, but about the necessity of anyone interested in social justice primarily being concerned with truth. For a ‘sustainable justice,’ Dreger argues, ‘is impossible if we don’t know what’s true about the world.’ Liberal science, with its insistence on evidence and explicit rejection of arguments from personal authority, is the best system yet designed for distinguishing truth from falsehood. And for this reason, Dreger reminds us, ‘Evidence is an ethical issue.’”
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Alice Dreger is a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the author of Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex and One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal. Her work has been discussed in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Science and on CNN, and her op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. She has appeared as a guest expert on Oprah, Savage Love, Good Morning America, and NPR. Her TED talk, “Is Anatomy Destiny?,” has been viewed more than 850,000 times.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Ms. Dreger's PhD thesis concerned the history of medical treatment of sexual abnormalities. She uncovered problems with how modern doctors were treating children born with these abnormalities today - that treatment was mostly benefitted horrified parents, not the children living with these problems and the sexually-active adults they would become. She explained:
"However, once I understood what was really going on at pediatric hospitals all over the nation ... I felt I had to assist... I threw myself into the struggle and spent the decade after graduate school living two lives - as a professor researching and writing academic histories of the medical establishment's treatment of intersex and also as a patient advocate and leading activist for the rights of sexual minorities... I held fund-raisers, I drafted press releases, I developed policies, I wrote and ghost wrote propaganda and I stuffed a lot of envelops. I also testified to government committees, met with groups of activists and doctors, got media training, and appeared as a talking head on one news program after another."
She and other activists founded the Intersex Society to advocate for change. After a decade of struggle, they eventually changed recommended medical practice. Eventually, however her dedication to an unbiased search for evidence about gender identify and related issues created problems with her activist allies. She writes:
"The story I had been told about Mike Bailey and Craig Palmer and so many other white straight male scientists accused of producing bad and dangerous findings, the story I had willingly heard as an academic feminist in the humanities, was that these guys were just soldiers of the oppressive establishment against which we good guys had to fight. They came from old dogma about human nature, we came from progress and social justice and so we had to win. But here I was faced with the fact that ... they cared first about knowing what was true. That doesn't mean that these scientists (or I or anyone else) existed without bias. It didn't mean that their work wasn't shaped and sometimes tainted by politics, ideologies, and loyalties. But it did mean that they tried to adhere to an intellectual that agenda that wasn't first and only political. Good scholarship had to put the search for truth first and the quest for social justice second."
"Nevertheless, I knew many of my colleagues in the humanities would disagree... [They would say that:] We have to use our privilege to advance the rights of the marginalized. We can't let people like Bailey and Palmer say what is true about the world. We have to give voice and power to the oppressed and let them say what is true. Science is as biased as all human endeavors, and so we have to empower the disempowered and speak always with them."
Dreger's activist allies viciously turned against her. She received a Guggenheim fellowship to write about her experiences and those of other academics who challenged orthodoxy. The book illustrates the failings of liberal academia today, by someone who has experienced both activism and persecution. It is a passionate plea for academics to rise above confirmation bias, politicization, and pressure from activists.
"We scholars had to put our search for evidence before everything else, even when the evidence pointed to facts we did not want to see. The world needed that from us, to maintain - by our example, by our very existence - a world that would keep learning and questioning, that would remain free in thought, inquiry and word."
"Only insanely privileged people like us [academics], who never fear the knock of a corrupt police could think that guilt or innocence [truth] should be determined by identity rather than facts. Science - the quest for evidence - is not just 'another way of knowing'"
(Dreger's relatives lived in Communist Poland. Thought police knocking on the door were a reality to her, but inconceivable here - until some climate scientists petitioned the government to apply RICO statutes to climate change skeptics. My sons were taught that science is merely "another way of knowing" in an IB course, Theory of Knowledge.)
"I longed to get away from "representations of reality" .. to know what is true, to have my work judged by others, to find evidence that an idea is right OR WRONG".
"[Where would we be] if the Pope had succeeded in using his self-serving Catholic identity politics to forever quash Galileo's evidence that the ancients and the Bible were wrong about the Earth."
Which leads to the title and symbol of Dreger's quest for truth: Galileo's Middle Finger. That digit - which doesn't have rude connotations in Italy - is on display in a museum in Florence.
This is a book about the driving spirit in science--the Galilean one--and why this is intrinsically tied up with upsetting people. Why? because the mix of evolved perceptions that could loosely be called "common sense" (e.g. respect for authority, tradition and intuition) are useless for doing science. Worse than that--they are systematically wrong. Telling people that these things are wrong gets up their noses. Doing this about sex and sexuality gets up their...well,...lets call its "noses" as this is a family show. And this book is not just about science--it's also about sex. Inconvenient sex. People who can't be conveniently sexually pigeon-holed, people who raise uncomfortable questions about the nature of human sexuality, people whose sexuality threatens others sense of personal identity, people who dare to apply scientific principles to the most intimate parts of human nature. Sex research, as the editor of the leading peer-reviewed journal in the field is fond of saying "is an outlaw discipline", and nowhere is that more clearly indicated than here. If Dreger hadn't been annoying people--she wouldn't have been doing her job. And the same goes for the people she documents. They need to be animated by the Galilean spirit--that spirit that allows people to take the threats, the lies and the pretended indifference, raise a middle finger and say "With regard to matters requiring thought: the less people know and understand about them, the more positively they attempt to argue concerning them." A great series of detective stories, told in breathless style. Should be required reading on all history and philosophy of science courses (and now is so on mine)
scientific insight. A very easy read, and now we are more informed on subjects we only had a vague bit of knowledge.
Well worth the time, and it's a great way to gain knowledge on a subject we didn't know enough about. We recommend it
to people who are interested in the human condition and mysteries.
I've already experienced some of the attacks/doxing/no platforming Dregger documents in my own field of interest. It was encouraging (though frustrating) to read about how she and others have weathered the same.
Most recent customer reviews
I got to the third chapter and refused to continue.
I never got the reason as to the purpose of the book.Read more
Intersex, trans support
Am author to follow and admire if you are an academic