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Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left

3.2 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1610391641
ISBN-10: 1610391640
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The authors spend a fair amount of time at the outset of this unsettling book explaining that they don’t have a political agenda, but the book’s subtitle, combined with its stated purpose—“to inform you about a disturbing trend among highly influential progressive activists who misinterpret, misrepresent, and abuse science to advance their ideological and political agendas”—might lead some readers to conclude otherwise. Leaving politics aside, though, there is much here to recommend. The science is clearly explained, and the issues surrounding the science laid out with clarity. There are a lot of hot-button topics here: environmentalism, genetically modified organisms, organic food, product testing on animals, solar power, clean energy, and more. The authors explore the issues in detail, working very hard to give the appearance of political neutrality, and the book does an excellent job of opening readers’ minds to the possibility that these issues aren’t as cut-and-dried as they might have been led to believe by politicians and the media. Open-minded readers, those who don’t mind being asked to reassess their long-held beliefs, should find much here to think about and debate. --David Pitt

Review

Michael Medved, nationally syndicated talk radio host, author of THE 10 BIG LIES ABOUT AMERICA
“Entertaining, enlightening and important. This valuable book should shatter the left's smug certainty that science registers as a partisan Democrat. Berezow and Campbell provide persuasive evidence and argument that should reshape conventional wisdom on a wide variety of current controversies."

Kirkus
“A sophisticatedly vitriolic, somewhat tongue-in-cheek addition to the current election debate.”

Publishers Weekly
“Their nonpartisan message is clear: Washington as a whole is woefully uninformed when it comes to the scientific underpinnings of pertinent topics like stem cell research, green energy, organic food, vaccines, and gender issues."

Huntington News
“Groundbreaking…If I were teaching journalism, this is a book that I would require my students to read and absorb -- and keep for reference.”

The Progressive Contrarian
“A no-nonsense, sometimes brutal and sometimes funny book that progressives should read.”

Red, Green, and Blue.org
“Anyone who talks for very long with a genuine American leftist -- as opposed to the vastly more numerous moderate liberals -- can quickly see that romantic-nostalgic spite toward science and technology is not the sole province of Fox-watchers."

PolicyMic
“The people who are skeptical of the benefits of vaccination or think that organic food is healthier will undoubtedly find [Science Left Behind] problematic. And they should. The prominent activists and politicians highlighted in this book are spreading misinformation and causing serious harm in some cases, and it's good to see scientists and science writers making some noise about it. You should read what they have to say. Go buy this book.”

Wall Street Journal
“In Science Left Behind, journalists Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell show that conservatives hardly have a monopoly on motivated reasoning, usefully revealing how pervasive scientific misinformation is in progressive arguments on organic and genetically modified foods, clean energy, nuclear waste and other matters.”

Forbes
“Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell, co-authors of Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left, make a nuanced and convincing counter argument: Ludditism is not a partisan issue. In fact, on many of the most critical issues of our time, the “progressive” perspective is often rooted in out-dated, anti-empirical, junk science paradigms that threaten innovation—and are beginning to unnerve the most scientifically minded thinkers on the left….This soft conspiracy, promoted by mainstream Democrats, infects a broad array of science issues and highlights the religious-like iconic beliefs of the left (as Kloor has noted): Nature is sacred, big business is dangerous and corrupt, technology can cause more problems than it helps solve, the world is on the verge of an eco-apocalypse, and we need more precaution, regulation and legislation. I call it enviro-romanticism, a criticism documented in distressing detail in Science Left Behind…Read Science Left Behind. It’s a clarion call for the empirically minded amongst us regardless of your ideological persuasion.”

Booklist
“There are a lot of hot-button topics here: environmentalism, genetically modified organisms, organic food, product testing on animals, solar power, clean energy, and more. The authors explore the issues in detail, working very hard to give the appearance of political neutrality, and the book does an excellent job of opening readers’ minds to the possibility that these issues aren’t as cut-and-dried as they might have been led to believe by politicians and the media. Open-minded readers, those who don’t mind being asked to reassess their long-held beliefs, should find much here to think about and debate.

Commentary Magazine
“Alex  B.  Berezow  and  Hank  Campbell  are  on  solid ground  in  Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left…Their  arguments  slice  quickly  and  powerfully,  supported  by  the kinds of skillfully chosen facts…Science Left Behind does much-needed work in drawing attention to what the authors  call  the  “feel-good  fallacies”  that constitute the worldviews of so many on the left—often the very individuals who proudly claim membership in the “reality-based com-munity.” More important, Berezow and Campbell articulate a valuable observation that deserves constant reiterating:  with  great  frequency, politics  invites  us  to  inhabit  an imaginary world populated by fictions  that  conform  to  our  desires about how things ought to be.”

San Francisco Book Review
Science Left Behind challenges the notion that poorly informed anti-science rhetoric is solely the province of the right wing…Berezow and Campbell offer numerous examples of progressives hijacking legitimate programs and research and twisting them to suit a backwards-ass anti-science agenda. In this way, reading Science Left Behind is as infuriating as it is eye-opening. A fundamental lack of familiarity with science is rampant in government as a whole, and Science Left Behind does an impressive job drawing attention to this alarming disparity.”

Portland Mercury
“ Nevertheless, Berezow and Campbell's message is jarring and necessary. Science is vilified in American political life. People believe things because they wish to, not because of what is true. This has real-world consequences when it comes to the implementation of beneficial technology. Anti-scientism is everywhere, and acknowledging that much of it comes from our own political tribe is a hard and inconvenient truth.”

Scienceblogs.com
“This is — as far as I know — the best and first book to tackle many of these anti-science claims, and while it is not the definitive work on any of these subjects, it’s worth a read for anyone who is infuriated by claims that republicans are anti-science…[T]he book does an excellent job of bringing together a large survey of different ways that elements of the political left in America fail to heed what science has to say."

New Scientist
“There is more, and recent, antiscience fare from far-left progressives, documented in the 2012 book Science Left Behind by science journalists Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell, who note that “if it is true that conservatives have declared a war on science, then progressives have declared Armageddon….Whereas conservatives obsess over the purity and sanctity of sex, the left's sacred values seem fixated on the environment, leading to an almost religious fervor over the purity and sanctity of air, water and especially food.”
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (September 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610391640
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391641
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,119,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Confession up front: I bring a bias to this review: I write on 'scientific literacy' and run a genetics program, GeneticLiteracyProject.org and therefore have little patience for activists across the ideological spectrum who see science and science journalism as a playpen for their pet ideological beliefs. I'll confess I liked the leftwing version of this book, "The Republican War on Science", because it cold bloodedly pointed out the anti-science proclivities of the religious and uber conservative right on such issues as climate change (yes, it's happening, and its a genuine threat) and evolution. Author Chris Mooney lost his wheels in his follow up book, "The Republican Brain", which veered heavily into the ideological lane, but nonetheless he did science a service with his first book. But there is lots he left out...including the sensibility of a large part of what might Hank Campbell and Alex Berezow call the "progressive left" in their refreshing new book, "Science Left Behind."

In a nutshell, this book is smart, on point and witty. Although it hits its share of bloopers, it slams an amazing number of home runs, particularly when it comes to the left's aversion for risk and/or cost benefit analysis. Fracking? It's all about the environmental damage it might cause (as there is no evidence yet it causes any actual problems) and no discussion of the geopolitical game changing role it plays, the dramatic reduction in greenhouse gasses that if offers, and the huge economic benefits. Chemicals? The things that are in every product, and have helped transform society in the twentieth century?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recently finished Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell's "Science Left Behind" and find it remarkable that as of the posting of this review, 85% of the reviews rate this book as either 5 stars or 1 star. Only two people who've read it find it to be somewhere between "great" and "terrible"? No wonder it's difficult for conservatives and liberals/progressives to have meaningful conversation about the improtance of science when it's just easier to use as a weapon against the other.

Overall, I think the story Berezow and Campbell tell is an important one that needs to be told and is done in an eloquent and entertaining way. Conservatives are frequently chided for taking "anti-science" views that seem as often to be a balancing of other factors/considerations above the opinions of scientists rather than a carte blanche rejection of science itself. Berezow and Campbell do a great job of pointing out that progressives/liberals do exactly the same thing. That said, I take issue with their definition of "anti-science" and think their better case is that the term "anti-science" (as used) applies across the board and one side should not cast it so promiscuous on the other. If everybody is anti-science does it really even mean anything? Science is a tremendously useful tool, but not all tools are sufficient for all tasks. Respect for science and its capabilites should be maintained but we should not denigrate other considerations in a way that makes science the only legitimate consideration. That said, I think they start an important conversation and effectively make the case that being "anti-science" is not as one sided as seems to be prevailing opinion.
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Format: Hardcover
An excellent discussion of the scientific blindness of progressives, who focus on evolution on other issues while ignoring their anti-science approach to science that truly improves human lives. The book carefully documents the progressive attack on important, life-saving science like vaccinations, using science to improve crop yields and reduce the need for pesticides and support for feel-good (but failed) technologies like solar power.

It is not a rebuttal to left-wing books that critique some of the anti-scientific fallacies of the right. It is, however, a response to left-wing pseudo-scientists who choose fear over scientific consensus by claiming that precaution dictates we ignore what we know in favor of what we don't. Rather than rebut, the book does a good job of completing the discussion of science and politics.

The authors, both with deep experience in science (Berezow has a PhD in microbiology), also address the failure of science education in the universities and the trend toward poor science journalism.

It is a quick, but clear read that is an important addition to the discussion about science and politics.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book interesting to read and challenging some of my views (which I thought was positive). However book was very biased and I didn't like that that authors were picking and choosing arguments to support their point while arguing in the book itself for non biased scientific way of seeing facts. I still enjoy reading it and looked up couple of references they listed in the book myself to make up my mind on certain issues. I think the sad truth is that in many subjects mentioned in the book there is no uniform right or wrong (or should I say right and left) and it is hard to say with certainty what should be done.
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