Sunday, August 14, 2016

Read Shawn Otto's 'The War on Science'

Earlier this summer I recommended three excellent reads in "Tired of all Trump, all the time? Enlighten yourself with these books": Dark Money by Jane Mayer, Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and Tipping Point for Planet Earth by Anthony D. Barnosky & Elizabeth A. Hadly.

Now I'm going to add a fourth: The War on Science by Shawn Otto.

My first impressions of the book were:
  1. It was originally released in paperback, not hardcover.
  2. It is not your usual 250-page popular science book but a 426-page hefty tome that could double as an adequate doorstop.
But it is far from a doorstop. Rather, it is a must-read for anyone who cares about the planet and its future.

Granted, it is at times a thick slog. It starts very slowly, including a long list of questions bunched into one long, nearly two-page paragraph. Right away I was thinking: Why wasn't this put into an easy-to-read list?

But once Otto gets into the meat of things with an overview of the history of politics and science, the book sings with detail.

Only once does it falter after that, giving (I think) much more emphasis on postmodernism than this mostly silly intellectual diversion deserves. But then Otto has a point: That science bashing on the intellectual left can be as dangerous as on the intellectual right or from fundamentalist religious movements.

In The War on Science Otto covers a lot. In fact, I can't think of anything he doesn't touch upon. He even addresses issues that seem peripheral to his thesis but that resonate strongly with me and others I know in academia: for example, the current thrust by universities to "overempower" administrations at the expense of faculty and the learning environment, and to be job trainers rather than pure educators.

That said, I can't think of any book today that better covers the grand scheme of the interaction of science and antiscience, all mixed in with politics, religion, economics, short-term thinking and pure corporate greed.

In short, do NOT read this book at your own peril!

— Leigh Pomeroy

Other reviews worth noting:

"The War on Science will change how you see the world" — The Guardian

"New Book Reveals How 'Broken Media' Enables War On Science" — Media Matters

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