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Science Left Behind Hardcover – 27 Sep 2012

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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"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.""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."

About the Author

Alex B. Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience. His work has appeared on CNN, and in USA Today, Forbes, and The Economist among other publications. In 2010, he earned a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Washington. Originally from southern Illinois, he currently lives in Seattle. Hank Campbell is the founder and editor of Science 2.0, the world's largest independent science communication community. Prior to that, he was a senior executive at three physics software companies. He graduated from Duquesne University and was formerly a U.S. Army officer.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 80 reviews
96 of 125 people found the following review helpful
Refeshing directness about the politicization of science 5 Oct. 2012
By Jon Entine - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Confession up front: I bring a bias to this review: I write on 'scientific literacy' and run a genetics program, 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? To the left, chemicals=toxic=danger, which is junior high school level simplistic analysis, yet it permeates the views of mainstream progressive thinking, including at well-funded activist NGOs such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group.

This book is quite fearless, taking up many subjects that are just too touchy for the hard left to even discuss in public, such as male/female differences in brain structure and performance--which everyone who has had children knows is true. Yet as they point out, careers have been ruined by litmus test activists groups for trying to discuss, in reasonable and scientific ways, what scientists discuss all the time.

They also take on the elephant in the room, science journalism itself. Journalism watchdog blogs have proliferated on the web, but almost all of them, even those that eschew ideology, are captive to it. As they note, anti-science beliefs held by progressives--such as clearly erroneous statements that there is no example of Democrats rejecting an entire field of science--are given a pass while stupid statements made by stupid conservatives are somehow supposed to be representative of all non-progressives. (Note: examples of Democratic rejectionism include: GM foods and crops pose a health danger; organic foods are healthier than conventional foods; fracking is an environmental disaster in the making; coal is preferable and less harmful to the environment than nuclear energy...the list goes on).

What are the book's misses? The authors take too many partisan potshots at the Obama Administration, which seems no worse (and even marginally better) than the prior Republican Administration in dealing with politically prickly hot button science issues. To a science-obsessed observer (me), one couldn't help but think that when the Bush Administration got things right, it wasn't so much that they were honing true to science but that their laissez faire attitude happened to coincide with good science. Berezow and Campbell also wander afield when it comes to analyzing science education policy, where they know the statistics but genuinely seem out of their depth on how education works.

But those are relatively modest exceptions that underscore the rule of their book: writing about complex science issues is damn difficult, and the only defense we have against ideological arrogance is transparency. These guys lay it all out there for the reader. They are fair and funny. I would challenge anyone who is genuinely open minded and has a scientific sensibility to read this book and not come away more enlightened--and saddended by the harsh politicization of science by those who arrogantly call themselves "progressives".
43 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Great Debut by Berezow and Campbell 13 Oct. 2012
By Matthew W. Schuh - Published on
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.
47 of 63 people found the following review helpful
A Book Committed to Science, Not Politics 27 Sept. 2012
By J. T. Myers - Published on
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.
82 of 112 people found the following review helpful
Disappointingly hyperbolic, badly researched, and poorly argued 27 Dec. 2012
By lx - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Liberal from California: This book was great!! 13 Jan. 2013
By Arthur Cooper - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book does a great job of highlighting some of the unscientific wackiness of the far (and not so far) left. Of course, if you look at the title, it's clear the focus is on the left, but it doesn't spare Republicans either or come off as all that biased (well, mostly). The book isn't perfect and does hightlight a few extreme examples, but, if you live somewhere where there are a lot of hypocritical hippies you will definitely be able to relate and probably find a few parts of the book pretty funny. The writing style does get a little snarky, but if you're so politically entrenched that a few jabs at the left upsets you, you probably wouldn't check out a book like this anyway. I highly recommend this book to any moderate liberals. Just as moderate conservatives need to seperate themselves from the extremists in the republican party, I think liberals also need to recognize some of the craziness that is part of the extreme hippie/progressive left.
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