The Sciences

'Nother Spate of Reviews: Yale Climate Forum, Joe Romm, Josh Rosenau, New Scientist

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyAug 6, 2009 12:53 PM


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We've had many more reviews of the book, including three very positive ones from Bud Ward of the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, Joe Romm of Climate Progress, and Josh Rosenau of ScienceBlogs. (Jim Giles of New Scientist also reviewed here, but it's one of those reviews that you just don't know how to characterize--mildly negative?) Anyways, let's listen to Ward first. The whole review is positive--he calls the book "a timely bromide for the science blues"--but this part was notable:

But it is in their “Is Our Scientists Learning?” (sic.) chapter and in their conclusion chapter that Mooney and Kirshenbaum offer what may be the book’s most valuable contributions. Here, they outline the woes, but also the promises and potentials, of the science community, and they issue a veritable call to action not just for more scientists, and certainly not for more scientists working “in isolation” from the society so badly needing them. Instead, they call for better scientific training of “more well-rounded scientists,” familiar with and comfortable dealing in policy, politics, society, and the media. They call for career paths supportive not only of scientific innovation, but also of scientific outreach.

Joe Romm, for his part, says of Unscientific America: "Buy it and read it." He also takes our argument about training scientists to communicate and runs with it:

I do think that every scientist-in-training today should be required to take a course in communication, a course in energy, and a course in climate science. The smart ones will specialize in some discipline related to sustainability because when the nation and the world get desperate about global warming in the next decade or two, the entire focus of society, of scientists and engineers, and of academia will be directed toward a WWII-scale effort to mitigate what we can and adapting to the myriad miseries that our mypopic dawdling has made inevitable.

Josh Rosenau's review is long and very sensitive--it characterizes our argument in great detail and with the utmost accuracy. He begins like this:

"Americans are dumb." This is the reaction I get most often when talking about the creation/evolution conflict, and it's the premise of many actions by the scientific community (which includes both scientists and a broader group of science advocates – science-ists if you will). If we could only educate people better – teach them about the fossils, tell them more about stem cells, explain the physics of light striking a carbon dioxide molecule – America's trouble assimilating scientific findings would be resolved. As Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum point out in their breezy Unscientific America, those solutions miss the point.

Yup. Rosenau agrees with us about the problems with the "deficit model": "The solution," he writes, "is not merely to better educate the public about what science says or how scientists know what they do, but to improve people's appreciation of why science matters to what we all do in our lives." Josh also goes on to point out that we really should have mentioned Mythbusters (point taken), and makes some fair-minded criticisms, while also defending us from other critics. Read the whole thing here. And now I'm off to Seattle....

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