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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books you'll ever read
Two scientists confront the Humanities-based critiques of science which have been gaining influence since the late 1960s. Their grasp of material outside their own fields is impressive. They describe in turn each academic Leftist critique of science, feminist, post-modern, afro-centric and so on, and evaluate what these criticisms amount to. The answer is not very much...
Published on 16 Aug 2006 by C. Mcclernon

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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars excellent, but a bit too academic!
Higher Superstitions is a vital and important book considering the pelithera of garbage out there from both the Religious Right and "Academic Left." I happen to be a (new) science writer whose motto is to get the general public into such debates. It is important to involve those who need to be "set straight" on the facts--in this case, academics and...
Published on 14 Jun 1998


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books you'll ever read, 16 Aug 2006
By 
C. Mcclernon (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Paperback)
Two scientists confront the Humanities-based critiques of science which have been gaining influence since the late 1960s. Their grasp of material outside their own fields is impressive. They describe in turn each academic Leftist critique of science, feminist, post-modern, afro-centric and so on, and evaluate what these criticisms amount to. The answer is not very much. They describe how this Humanities work arose, and why it is a pernicious, largely fraudulent, and ultimately destructive influence. The book is not only highly articulate, but also extremely well-written and surprisingly funny. Highly recommended.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "a reality-driven enterprise", 26 Dec 2005
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Triggering the most hilarious literary scandal in recent years, this book will be a major influence in determining how our society progresses. Science has been under severe assaults during the past generation. Much anti -science feeling arose as a reaction against the use of science and technology to support war. Later, science was accused of supporting racism and sexism. Now, as this book makes clear, a new wave of slander on science has arisen and is gaining strength. The origin of these assaults began with the wave of "postmodernist" writings among French philosophers and social commentators. The attitude of science being merely the tool of society instead of working aloof or apart from social issues leapt the Atlantic to take firm root among North American academics. This "academic left," having begun as a movement for social equality, has turned its wrath on science. Nearly every element of science, from relativity to biology, has come under the distorted scrutiny of humanities scholars. Alan Sokal's fictitious example in Social Text demonstrated just how contorted this outlook can be.
After an excellent presentation of "postmodernist" concepts, the authors address the anti-science critics declarations. The authors offer us a rogues' gallery of misguided "spokespersons" who bend language, misinterpret what science discloses and the methods it uses, and who fail to comprehend the very topics they purport to critique. They accept that much of science seems obscure and eludes quick or superficial comprehension. Why then, they query, do these critics insist either on denouncing its methods or adopt the findings in an attempt to restructure society? In Gross and Levitt's view, the critics see attacks on science as a means of attaining intellectual power and guiding society along a revised path. Since these critics see corruption at every level, they mean to "purify" society by tearing out any and all roots supporting it. That they have been effective at this slashing exercise in many areas is the reason this book was written.
Gross and Levitt show that those condemning science as "patriarchal," environmentally destructive or racist, are almost universally devoid of knowledge of the workings of science. These attackers seek to replace traditional science with new "ways of knowing." Gross and Levitt offer some real howlers as examples of this genre. From the frivolous "Newton's Principia is a rape manual" to the bizarre notion of a "feminist algebra," Gross and Levitt expose the fallacies of these "anti-patriarchal" constructs. Given the long term campaign by feminists to rebuke science, they show remarkable restraint in their assessment of this aspect of post-modernist techniques. The chapter "Auspiciating Gender" is but seven pages longer than the next longest one. Still, as they remind us, those adherents to such grotesque notions are now firmly established in academic positions and making education policies.
Throughout the book, the authors remind us that science is "a reality-driven enterprise." Science achieves its results by constant attention to methods and results. Whatever impact "culture" has on science, it isn't in the methodology. No reputable scientist assumes his theories will go unchallenged, especially as new data emerge. The cycles of checks and confirmations or refutations has kept science moving forward since the Enlightenment. Gross and Levitt urge readers to remember that without the methods and results of science, countless human achievements from the elimination of smallpox to the computers viewing this page would never have occurred. In the words of Richard Dawkins, "show me a cultural relativist in a jet aircraft at 35 000 feet, and I'll show you a hypocrite." What more can be said? [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canaaa]
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent dissection of anti-science movement in academia, 4 April 1998
By A Customer
This is one of the most important books of the past few years. As you can see from the wrongheaded review below, it is also quite controversial. Far from an attack on social science, it is rather a pointed response to some of the more absurd, yet all too commonly accepted critiques of concepts such as objectivity, reason, logic, and the scientific method. This book startled me with its revelations of nonsense that not only go unquestioned, but are widely spouted by so-called radical critics of anything that differs from their preconceived notions. Strongly recommended for serious students of what consititutes knowledge.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good antidote to anti-science, 21 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Paperback)
I read this after reading the excellent "Intellectual Impostures". I would think that if you enjoyed that you'll enjoy this - I did. Whereas "Impostures" mostly concentrates on the misuses of science in certain postmodern tracts, "Higher Superstition" is a major attack on pseudoscience, antiscience and the rubbish sometimes produced under the name of postmodernism. The authors struck me as very committed and this comes across in their langauge. For example, they call Sandra Harding a cheerleader - which strikes me as calculated to annoy such a prominent feminist and indeed many others.
The book covers various attacks on science - devoting a chapter to feminist critiques of science, another to green critiques. This latter is particularly relevant in the UK at present (June 2000) given the recent concern about GM and the debate Prince Charles' comments have provoked.
They profer an explanation for the rise in the antiscience movement which I found interesting. It seems to be based on non-scientists coveting the ability of science to discover truth. I wasn't totally convinced but it certainly has got me thinking.
The call to arms issued to defenders of science in the final chapter struck me as a bit protectionist. They seemed to be calling on scientists in universities to play a role in blocking the careers of those that promulgate these views.
The only weakness for me was the use of some words that drove me to the dictionary. While expanding my vocabulary is not a bad thing, I think using foreign phrases and uncommon words when simpler ones are available is a failing of the people they criticise.
Overall a great read - I would recommend it to everyone. It's a shame those that believe horoscopes are just as valid as the predictions of qunatum mechanics won't read it.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling., 21 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Paperback)
If nothing else, this book is an excellent reminder that there are people out there, many of them highly educated and intelligent, who, faced with a conflict between their own opinions and reason, conclude that reason must be discarded. The postmoderns might seem like harmless, ivory-tower types with no following outside the most rarified spheres of academia. But let us not forget that Goebbels (a doctor of philology and a man of letters himself) championed a similar philosophy in his own time, with consequences that we know all too well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Science versus Superstition, 7 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Paperback)
Gross and Levitt, respectively professors of life sciences and mathematics, have produced a clearly written, well researched and cogently argued response to attacks on science by the scientifically subliterate: postmodernists who define science as just one more rhetorical game, feminists who advocate the oxymoron of a feminist science, radical ecologists who indulge in scaremongering rather than interpret data responsibly, animal rights activists who carry their arguments to violent action and Afrocentrists who spout mythical fantasies as history of science. Throughout, Gross and Levitt are scrupulously fair in their discussion and acknowledge the social dimension of scientific practice and technology. What they oppose and convincingly demolish are the spurious claims of those in the humanities and social sciences to understanding and knowledge which will radically reform the principles and methods of science itself. Although published in the 1990s, "Higher Superstition" is of immediate relevance to oppositions and arguments still ongoing in academe and the media generally. For anyone who wishes to be well informed about these issues, "Higher Superstition" is a valuable and impressive study.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a hyped world of "important books," this really IS one., 27 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Paperback)
"Higher Superstition" is a must read for anyone who has suffered through the lunatic whiney mamma's boys [of either gender]who pimp that French Marxist superstition called "deconstruction." Jacques Lacan surely must be chuckling to himself each night when he hears how many delicate, high-strung professors actually believe his deconstruction nonsense about Shakespeare --and now about science-- and about how many intense, immature, nervous graduate students waste perfectly good air and caffeine debating the finer points (as if there were any!)of his merde de cheval. "Higher Superstition" gives Lacan et al a long overdue, richly deserved kick in the behind as it reinforces what HC Andersen said about the Emperor's being naked.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it. Read it., 29 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Paperback)
To often, silence implies consent. Scientists have a tendency to ignore non-sense, perhaps believing that no rational person could be swayed and that the irrational people of the world aren't relevant. Fortunately, the rise of Creationism in American politics was a strong wake up call.
Levitt and Gross now take the challenge to the pseudo-science being produced by the Academic Left. It's good to see that scientists now understand that one can not be silent in the face of the absurd, the ignorant, and the deranged.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Much needed dissection of popularized stupidity., 9 May 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Paperback)
This book raises several very interesting points about the current anti-scientific, anti-rational movement in some parts of academia and elsewhere.
The main point of the book is that, in order for one to dissect science, one must USE SCIENCE!
This singular truth is very often ignored by some science-illiterate in academia (and elsewhere) today as they try to foster their socio-political agendas.
The real danger (as the authors point out), is not in some social "science" faculty in (presumably) forward thinking schools fostering their antirational ideas upon students, but rather the overall harmful effect as these kinds of sloppy magical thinking permeate to the rest of society, and even become an acceptable norm (even more than now!).
Being educated used to mean something, whether one was educated in the arts or the sciences (for a time, they were one and the same).
But without the ability and the desire to examine the world in a logical, consistent (and dare we hope scientific) manner, "education" becomes worthless. If the sole job of the "liberal arts" faculty is to pass off opinion, heresay, conjecture and other forms of nonsense as the gospel truth, where does it lead? If one only teaches about the urgent need to fight for a particular political agenda, what is being done besides "brainwashing" the hapless student into becoming a soldier in some imagined war?
The authors present several pieces of advice to potential "social critics."
It is not enough to merely pass off cute metaphores and analogies in proving one's point - no matter how clever they are .
If one plans on examining some (perceived) critical problem (social, political economical, ecological etc..) also present POSSIBLE WORKABLE SOLUTIONS! Pointing fingers at "Da Man" and breast-beating of the injustice of it all - solves nothing.
It is NOT acceptable to create fictitious fables and coin them as historical facts.
The only drawback for the book i! s in its writing style. Perhaps readability of the book for the general (non academia) audience would be improved by a new edition without the excruciating snobbish highbrow tone. This important issue concerns everyone, not just academia, and definitely not just scientists.
Science WORKS, and does not depend on one's faith.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an attack on smug, condescending ignorance, 15 Jan 1998
By A Customer
This is an important book, clear and reasonable. It is not an attack on social science, as the previous review has misunderstood, but an attack on social scientist's attacks on science itself. Politics is politics, social science is social science, and (post) structuralism and deconstruction speak for themselves. And then, science is science. While no one would deny that science has it's societal context, the social sciences have claimed that there is no objective truth in science. They should speak for themselves, of course; while they have no claims to truth themselves [except, of course, when on the soap box over their own theories], neither can they claim that the results of pi are based social context, or that gravity effects different cultures differently. That is what this book is about. Following it came the Sokol controversy, out of which Steven Weinberg developed a pithy thought experiment that is simpatico with the aims of this book and focussed on those who feel that quantum theory gives license to rearrange all thought in the humanities; if we woke up tomorrow and found that science had discovered Newtonian principles apply to a layer of reality below that quantum level, would we then have to rethink how we see the world in our everyday thoughts and experiments?
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