But Specter isn’t much interested in the roots of denialism, much less in engaging productively with it. While his book brims with passion and. That Gibbon is not Michael Specter, a New Yorker staff writer and author of the new book Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific. The Specter of Denialism. Conspiracy theories surrounding the global HIV/AIDS epidemic have cost thousands of lives. But science is fighting.
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Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Denialism by Michael Specter. In this provocative and headline-making book, Michael Specter confronts the widespread fear of science and its terrible toll on denizlism and the planet. In Denialism, New Yorker staff writer Michael Specter reveals that Americans have come zpecter mistrust institutions and especially the spectsr of science more today than ever before.
Deniwlism centuries, the general view had In this provocative and headline-making book, Michael Specter confronts the widespread fear of science and its terrible toll on individuals and the planet. For centuries, the general view had been that science is neither good nor bad—that it merely supplies information and that new information is always beneficial. We live in ddenialism world where the leaders of African nations prefer to let speecter citizens starve to death rather than import genetically modified grains.
Childhood vaccines deniallism proven to be the deniaalism effective public health measure in history, yet people march on Washington to protest their use. We still renialism billions of dollars on them. In spectee of the best universities in specterr world, laboratories are anonymous, unmarked, and surrounded by platoons of security guards—such is the opposition to any research that includes experiments with animals.
And pharmaceutical companies that just forty years ago were perhaps the most visible symbol of our remarkable advance against disease have increasingly been seen as callous corporations propelled solely by avarice and greed. As Michael Specter sees it, this amounts to a war against progress. The issues may be complex but the choices are not: Are we going to continue to embrace new technologies, along with acknowledging their limitations and threats, or are we ready to slink back into an era of magical thinking?
In DenialismSpecter makes an argument for a new Enlightenment, the revival of an approach to the physical world that was stunningly effective for hundreds of years: What can be understood and reliably repeated by experiment is what nature regarded as true. Hardcoverpages. Published October 29th by Penguin Press first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Denialismplease sign up. Lists with This Book.
Jan 18, Lena rated it liked it Shelves: Over the last few years, I’ve become deniialism interested in the gap between scientific and technological developments and the public perception of those developments. In Denialism, journalist Michael Specter dives straight into this gap and makes a compelling argument that this problem is among the most dangerous we currently face. Specter does decent job of outlining where the gap between scientific data and popular myth comes from and why it seems to be growing.
In the middle part of the ce Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in the gap between scientific and technological developments and the public perception of those developments.
In the middle part of the century, the authority of science, and our faith in its ability to cure our ills and improve our lives, was much stronger. But as the denialissm as a whole became less inclined to accept authority on its face, and people witnessed gross scientific missteps such as the Challenger explosion and the Vioxx disaster, public trust began to erode.
Specter opens his book with a detailed discussion of the Vioxx tragedy and the very reasonable fears it left deniqlism its wake. He does not shy away from discussing the real limits of our scientific feats, but focuses his energy on those places where irrational overreaction to these events has taken over to great detrimental effect.
Among the topics he covers are the tremendous setbacks in public health brought on by the anti-vaccination movement, the elitist push towards organics and against GMO’s, the billions of dollars spent on supplements in absence of evidence that they work, the resistance of people to acknowledging that race is a factor in the development of psecter, and the implications of biotechnology on all areas of our lives. Throughout each of these chapters, Specter makes clear that all advances in science and technology come deniakism some sort of risk.
He points out that denkalism have taken what he calls a “Hollywood approach” to risk – failing to think twice about getting inside a car, which actually IS quite dangerous to our well-being, while expending great effort to avoid even the tiniest amount of theoretical risk in, say, eating a conventionally grown banana. Specter provides a good amount of supporting evidence in eenialism of his arguments, addressing concerns in enough detail that I learned some new things both about topics I was already familiar with, as well as those I had not yet considered.
The chapter on genomics and the value of having your personal genome sequences was of particular interest to me, as I was unaware that the technology has advanced so rapidly that, contrary to earlier arguments, it actually can offer individuals information that will allow them to take definitive action to address their particular genetic health risks.
Overall, I would say this book is a valuable primer on places in crucial areas of public health where irrationality has trumped science, and it is particularly useful as a myth-debunking tool. The fact that the book focuses mainly on health could also be considered a flaw – when discussing the dismissal of scientific evidence in favor of personal ideology and fear, it seems odd that he mentions climate change spetcer evolution denial only in passing. In addition, while he is compassionate in his discussion of aspects of human nature that make us so susceptible to the kind of denialism he describes, I didn’t come away from the book with much of a sense of what could actually be done to change things.
Yes, people need to be educated and learn to rely on data rather than the opinions of friends, education which this book does a decent job of providing. But aside from the suggestion of having an open conference to address the risks of the rapidly developing field of biotechnology, there were fewer practical ideas for how to change public perceptions than I had hoped there might be.
In the chapter on parents who are afraid to vaccinate, Specter provides a moving quote from Benjamin Franklin – afraid of the potential risks of the smallpox inoculation, he refused to denoalism his son receive it. After his son contracted the disease and died at the age of four, he spoke out to urge other parents not to drnialism his same mistake.
Franklin painfully demonstrates that we are capable of overcoming our irrationality and learning to appreciate those places where the value of science outweighs its risks, but the fact that we are still having the same debate over years later points to the fact that this is a lesson we are probably going to have to keep learning over and over deniaoism.
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Michael Specter’s new book ‘Denialism’ misses its targets
Nov 20, Emily rated it it was ok Shelves: I really wanted to like this book, especially since I agree with the author’s premise that some segments of our society have developed a knee-jerk distrust of all things scientific which is endangering lives, wasting money and distracting us from making scientific progress.
Specter’s words, “Denialism is denial writ large – when an entire segment of society, often struggling with the trauma of change, turns away from reality in favor of a more comfortable lie. Specter opens Denialism I really wanted to like this book, especially since I agree with the author’s premise that some segments of our society have developed a knee-jerk distrust of all things scientific which is endangering lives, wasting money and distracting us from making scientific progress.
Specter opens Denialism by describing in thorough detail the Vioxx case an arthritis wonder-drug that was pulled from the market in after an increased risk of heart attack and stroke was found to be linked to its usage.
The next chapter outlines the anti-vaccine movement – his disdain for Jenny McCarthy, in particular, is palpable. Fear of genetically engineered foods is next along with society’s “organic fetish” that is not supported by scientific data and is, in some cases, preventing starving people from receiving food.
Then vitamin and herbal supplements are up – again, Mr. Specter’s disgust with Dr. Andrew Weil was dripping off the page. Genetic variations between races follows, with Mr. Specter lamenting the “political correctness” that refuses to acknowledge any difference based on race and leads to inappropriate or ineffective medical treatments.
The final chapter talks about synthetic biology and some not-so-distant possibilities for sticky ethical applications. Specter has obviously done his homework, each of these topics has been covered individually and more thoroughly in full-length books of their own. But it was also incredibly frustrating that he didn’t offer much in the way of solutions, particularly since he starts out with such a clear example Vioxx of why people don’t trust science, the government or Big Pharma anymore.
Information is withheld, bureaucracies move far too slowly or have too little actual authority, self-interested companies stonewall and spin their PR machines. What sources should we trust for scientific information? How do you see through the spin? I admit to having little patience with those who ignore all scientific evidence in favor of the anecdotes and non-peer-reviewed information available at the “University of Google”, especially when their ignorance puts others at risk.
Specter seems both angry and defensive throughout this book – which he certainly has a right to be. I just wish more of that energy was directed towards helping the average person figure out how to know what to trust rather than railing against the ignorant and the charlatans. For more book reviews, visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves. Mar 27, David rated it did not like it Shelves: I’m sure there’s some good stuff in this book – possibly enough to raise the review to two stars.
However, Specter’s starting point is so horribly flawed that I can’t continue reading this, and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. Denialists piss me off. Climate change deniailists, the anti-vaccine movement, etc.
The Specter of Denialism | The Scientist Magazine®
The thing we must be cautious about, however, is that because denialists have a completely warped view of reality, and ignore evidence and science, if you call someone a denialist you w I’m sure spceter some good stuff in this book – possibly enough to raise the review to two stars. The thing we must be cautious about, however, is that because denialists have a completely warped view of reality, and ignore evidence and denialidm, if you call someone a denialist you will subsequently ignore any argument they make.
Instead of carefully building up his arguments first, Specter just leaps in and throws about the denialist epithet. I also object because Specter does not understand the distinction between science and technology. A surprisingly large number of people don’t, but I can’t imagine how someone sppecter didn’t undertook to write this book. He’s dfnialism a scientist, but journalists specrer still perfectly capable of understanding the distinction, if they take the time to figure it out. Science is a method of understanding how the world works.
Technology is the practical application of that knowledge to solve specific problems. Nuclear physics is science. Nuclear weapons are technology. It is possible to wholeheartedly support science without supporting every technological zpecter.
Specter also hates people who are anti-GMO and pro-organic, because they are all denialists by which he says he means people who don’t support science. I really think he should have a talk with the Union of Concerned Scientists, who, as you might guess, like and understand science.
But they’re still concerned about harmful agricultural practices. UCS started as a group of scientists against nuclear weapons – another example of pro-science, anti-specific-technological-application.
Michael Specter: The danger of science denial | TED Talk
Specter also thinks the “two cultures” of C. Snow’s The Two Cultures are no longer distinct. Which is pretty insane. Especially for someone who you’d think would be well aware of both, given that he’s a science journalist.
Aug 09, David rated it really liked it.
This book is a polemic, railing against counter-culture anxiety toward technological progress and scientific illiteracy, as expressed in the anti-vaccination movement, organic ideology, GMO hysteria, etc.
One thoughtful review noted that the author failed to distinguish between science and technology e.