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- Published on Amazon.com
I was pretty excited to receive this book, as I myself rail against the anti-scientific left and the politicization of science. Ironically, the book is more political than scientific.
First, the good points that they touch on:
- The widespread adherence to the naturalistic fallacy on the left is terribly anti-scientific and damaging.
- Yucca mountain should never have been shut down, and nuclear energy should be more vigorously pursued. (they actually don't spend nearly enough time on this topic)
- Organic food is, by and large, a scam.
- Fuel ethanol is worse than useless.
- GMOs are probably key to feeding our growing population, and people opposed to them due to health concerns are ignorant. (points for mentioning the superiority of Bt corn, minus several points for using the typical weak "Golden Rice" example)
- Anti-vaccine activists are evil and stupid.
- Progressives are inconsistent about their support of clean energy versus other environmental concerns.
But those are the high points in a sea of sludgy rhetoric - the book's tone veers erratically from reasoned arguments to straight up childish mocking of straw men, digging up the wackiest left-wing beliefs they can find and tarring all "progressives" with that brush. They repeatedly drag out tired conservative tropes like "banning happy meals and plastic bags". They outright say things like "animal rights activists are crazy", and that feminists, by saying that most psychological gender differences are not innate, are basically equivalent to creationists. Any pretense of impartiality is completely obliterated by the time you make it halfway through. Don't get me wrong, I love me some mocking of hippies, but it's really overdone for a book with aspirations of being apolitical.
They present claims that they must know are false, but can't resist bringing up anyway, like "being vegetarian will result in more environmental damage and animal cruelty than eating meat". This wild conjecture is based upon the same kinds of dubious calculations they go on to ridicule when it comes to calculating emissions needed for different types of food production (they use the same specious math in the section on electric vehicles). They cite one study only relevant to Australia's cattle ranching, and even cite Steven Davis' famous but discredited paper, which is a sure sign of sloppy research pursuant to an agenda.
Where they really go off the rails, though, is in chapter 10, where they actually start referencing "evolutionary psychology" as evidence for innate gender differences. Guys - evolutionary psychology is not science. And I say this as a longtime student of it, owning most of David Buss' works. It's ultimately white males with no grounding in evolutionary theory spouting contrived speculation, usually to justify sexual inequality or attributes associated to gender. I recommend the book Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology, which addresses this topic in detail.
Like "evolutionary psychologists", the authors have an embarrassingly bad grasp of study design, and keep saying things essentially like "men were shown to behave in x fashion, while women were shown to behave in y fashion. Therefore, it's genetic!" Most of their gender arguments are puerile and largely demolished by books like Gene Worship and Delusions of Gender.
But the pièce de résistance: they actually defend Lazar Greenfield. And at that point, it was clear that they were clueless, Steven Pinker-loving white guys. Lazar Greenfield was forced to step down as the editor of Surgery News after writing an allegedly humorous editorial, based upon a shoddy study which concluded that ingesting sperm via unprotected sex had anti-depressant properties for women. He suggested in the journal that maybe men should give women the gift of semen for Valentine's Day instead of chocolate - that is, women should be good sperm receptacles for their own well-being. It should be pretty clear that given the disenfranchisement of women in scientific fields, an authority figure shouldn't be making such obnoxious and demeaning comments - but the authors refer to his subsequent removal as him being a victim of "the progressive censorship machine".
From there on out, it's a rambling mess of Republican talking points that are only loosely related to science, like affirmative action (gauchely referring to it as "reverse racism") and drilling in ANWR - while they could have been addressing actually interesting things, like hippie objections to High Fructose Corn Syrup - until chapter 15, where they have an uncharacteristically sensible set of scientific and social goals for the years ahead. But by then, many will have set the book down, and will have missed little.