Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives

by Michael Specter
3.1 21

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Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter

In this provocative and headline-making book, Michael Specter confronts the widespread fear of science and its terrible toll on individuals and the planet.

In Denialism, New Yorker staff writer Michael Specter reveals that Americans have come to mistrust institutions and especially the institution of science more today than ever before. 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. Now, science is viewed as a political constituency that isn’t always in our best interest. We live in a world where the leaders of African nations prefer to let their citizens starve to death rather than import genetically modified grains. Childhood vaccines have proven to be the most effective public health measure in history, yet people march on Washington to protest their use. In the United States a growing series of studies show that dietary supplements and “natural” cures have almost no value, and often cause harm. We still spend billions of dollars on them. In hundreds of the best universities in the 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 Denialism, Specter 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. Now, at the time of mankind’s greatest scientific advances—and our greatest need for them—that deal must be renewed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101151020
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/29/2009
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 598,182
File size: 293 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Michael Specter writes about science, technology and global public health for the New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1998. He has twice received the Global Health Council’s Excellence in Media Award, as well as the Science Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Booknut62 More than 1 year ago
When I purchased this book, what attracted me to it was its subtitle. As an educator I marvel at how many times policy makers and the powers that be make decisions about education that flies right in the face of scientific knowledge and fact. Irrationalism does rule many of the decisions that are made in our society, and Michael Specter does an excellent job of providing several examples of where we have allowed unclear thinking, myth, fable, whatever you want to call it, rule our decision-making. He does not advocate blindly following science, but he does call for a more rational approach to making sense of our world and to guiding our policy decisions. When he points out the fallacies of the "all natural movements" and the "all organic movements" it becomes very clear that for all our braggadocio about being more advanced than ever, we do cling to irrational ways that have no basis in fact or science. I would agree with Specter wholeheartedly, that if we are going to make it as a planet, irrational thinking and its products are going to have to make way for a more rational approach to our problems that relies on scientific thinking and fact. The denialists who keep saying all is well with our climate can't be silenced with facts. They do not want to let go of their irrational thinking. Instead, those who are forward thinking are going to have to move onward without them. Specter's book provides so much food for thought about science, our society, politics, education, and even religion, it is one of the most thought-provoking books of the year. I easily would place it on the shelf beside Friedman's "The World Is Flat." Its call for a change in how we view science is no less compelling than Friedman's call to a global view of our place in the world. This is a book that I will ponder for quite some time.
Kallanreed More than 1 year ago
I found the book to be an insight into the fear mongering that irrational thinking and uninformed action spurs in today's America. It explores the incomprehensible mindset which has cropped up in society that doesn't trust authority, the scientific method and embraces panicked, illogical beliefs. Further Specter explores the some of the reasons (scientific and moral failures) that have lead to this condition. The overall tone is leaning very left which I found a little distasteful at times - being fairly moderate myself - but there wasn't anything egregious that couldn't be overlooked unless you have bought into the "religion" of denialism in which case you're likely to be wholly offended. The book reads well and although it can be a little tangential at times, is easy to follow and is easily understood. Specter does a good job illustrating points and, I feel, makes a very persuasive argument against willful scientific ignorance.
S_A_Hamilton More than 1 year ago
This book is worth reading. Its easy to read and very interesting. It helps break down some of the preconceived notions many have about and toward science.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brings many relevant points to light but becomes quite repetative
ElianGonzalez More than 1 year ago
The book seems to lose its primary impetus about halfway through, right when you get to the chapters on biotech. Then it becomes a paen to why everyone should embrace creating synthetic life and if you don't, you're a denialist. It's not badly written at all, but it clearly changes its tone to equate being alarmed at these concepts as being on the wrong side. The last two chapters left me disturbed.
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RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Debunking those who believe in bunk - medical, dietary, scientific bunk - and showcasing the research that refutes their denial of the truth, Michael Specter writes with the easy grace expected of a New Yorker magazine staff writer. Specter looks at the willful denial of the facts regarding Vioxx, vaccines and their relationship to autism, organic and genetically engineered food, and the future of genomics - the science of genes. Informative, readable, amusing and sure to make you wonder whether you practice a bit of "denialism" in your own beliefs (well, of course not).
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TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
Sometimes one just wants to give up on people. Maybe give them what they want, doubled, in a place they will notice its presence. Who knows if the science is right or wrong. It's the best attempt of a blind man to determine the extent of an elephant. If we put aside our greed and made a good faith effort not to blow the planet to smithereens, I think we could claim the joy the Buddhists tell us is our birthright. In this book Specter voices his frustration at the illogic, misinformation, and downright politicking plaguing important discussions of the planet's future. Sometimes it is hard to want to save mankind from itself. But we need to keep trying to keep the discussion as honest as we can make it, to bolster the weary. I still want that g-d joy. This was a good attempt to make a compelling argument, but don't think that he unequivocally succeeded.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was not worth my time. The title was "catchy" but that is about all. Although the author has every right to his point of view I thought that the book was very biased. Based upon the title and subtitle, I thought that he would be very rational in presenting both sides and then point out why he thought his side was right. While he did present both sides, he presented the opposing side in a very limited, very biased way. He presented the best of his side, he would present the worst of the other. For instance on the discussion of vaccines, he would quote government and industry spokesmen who are pro-vaccine and then would quote Jenny McCarthy, using statements by her that have cuss words. He failed to note the many researchers and research studies that support those who chose not to vaccine or to do so on an alternative schedule. This is just one of the many examples. This is not a book on science, but a book that has a specific agenda and utilizes logical fallacies, group stereotypes and sweeping generalizations to accomplish that task.
EquinoxEquinox More than 1 year ago
Specter has regurgitated into one book a months worth of MSN pablum. The book has a good cover. Just don't drink the aqua Kool-Aid. "To cope, Africans will need better goverments." Way to dis a whole continent. Clear and Organized writing.
MARNASWORLD More than 1 year ago
I must say that Specter is a follower. The USA is not the brilliant country it is because of followers. The brilliant scientist are and never have been followers. Specter has never been a mother that saw a simple "MANDATORY" vaccine damage her child. DO YOU THINK THE MOTHER WANTS TO SAY HER CHILD IS ILL ? NO! A MOTHER WANTS A BOUNCING HAPPY BABY BOY OR GIRL ! BUT that all has changed for millions of moms thanks to "MANDATORY", mercury filled childhood vaccines. Until Mr. Specter can walk in one of these mother's and father's shoes,,,,,he need not be writing. Truthfully and sincerely, MARNA MORAN