The Sciences

James Hrynyshyn on Unscientific America

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJul 7, 2009 7:22 PM


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Our second ScienceBlogs review comes in, and once again it is very positive. Let me quote:

I wish I'd written this book. Its subject matter is exactly the thing that gets me going. The tension between science and irrationality was the original inspiration for this blog. There are a few elements that I would have approached differently, of course<> But my quibbles are minor and none detract from the the book's primary strength: solid, concise writing that wastes no ink or paper (just 132 pages, not counting endnotes) getting to the heart of the problem.

Wow, thanks, James! Can we quote you? (Heh.) Let's hear some more, including some fair minded criticisms:

What they've discovered is that America isn't really "unscientific," just burdened by irrational forces that impede the country's full potential. They also spend a fair bit of their short book taking aim at scientists for failing to do their part to bridge the cultural gap. Most instructive are the lessons to be learned from the fiasco that followed the unsuccessful nomination of Carl Sagan (a hero of mine, as well as Chris and Sheril's), to the National Academy of Sciences. Indeed, so sharp is their criticism of the scientific establishment that the book's subtitle is perhaps a little misleading. It's not just the public's failure to grasp the basics about the world around them that we should worry about; there's plenty of blame to go around the halls of academia, it would seem.

Here let me make two clarifications. First, we did not intend the criticism of the scientific community to be "sharp," but rather fully constructive. And second, we did not intend the subtitle to be misleading, and indeed, I don't think it is--in the second chapter we carefully define "scientific illiteracy" in a way that, I would argue, makes it perfectly accurate. But no, the book is certainly not just about pointing fingers at the public. For far too long, that has been an easy way out. James also disagrees with us on Richard Dawkins and the "New Atheists." Fair enough, we could debate that, and if there's time enough we will--but for today, I'm not sure I can stomach another science-religion post. So for now, read his full review....

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