With climate change, the energy crisis, deadly pollutants, and ever-diminishing resources, science matters more today than ever before, but try explaining that to the scientifically illiterate American public. According to the authors of this spirited manifesto, the chasm between new-millennium science and general scientific knowledge is huge and growing, thanks to narrow corporate interests, a weak education system, science-challenged politicians, and a detached, hyper-specialized scientific community. And don't expect the media to improve this dire situation: For every five hours of cable news, less than one minute is devoted to science. Unscientific America is a startling wake-up call for a nation squandering its future.
Mooney, author of the bestselling The Republican War on Science, and Kirshenbaum, a marine scientist at Duke and former congressional science fellow, argue that the public ruckus caused when astronomers stripped Pluto of its planetary status demonstrates the disconnect between scientists and the general public, who share only a sense of mutual distrust. The authors place the blame for this squarely on both sides, as well as on the media (TV shows that misrepresent medical science and films that portray scientists as evil or nerdy), and plead for an improved level of discourse. But their repeated assertion that science and religion are compatible will not convince anyone who believes otherwise. Mooney showed his ideological colors in The Republican War on Science, and with their attacks on President Bush, he and his coauthor can't be accused of being nonpartisan here, despite their call for less partisan, nonideological debate. Some readers may also balk at paying $25 for a book nearly a third of which consists of notes and documentation. Nevertheless, Mooney and Kirshenbaum make valid arguments that can only help to further the public debate about these important issues. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.