Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense: Approaching Environmental Literacy

Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense: Approaching Environmental Literacy

by Michael Zimmerman


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Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense: Approaching Environmental Literacy by Michael Zimmerman

A pesticide banned in the United States is sold instead to farmers overseas; their products are then exported to American supermarkets. How do you know your fruits and vegetables are safe from contamination?

. A mining company buys government land in Colorado at $5 an acre for possible mineral exploration, then sells it to a developer at $50,000 an acre for condominiums. Such procedures are both legal and increasingly widespread. Can a better-informed public stop them?

. Attempting to calm public fears about the safety of chemically treated fruits, a government official eats a treated apple at a televised press conference. How does the risk he takes compare--statistically--with yours and your children's?

As the role of science and technology in everyday life grows both more pervasive and more complex, it has become ever more difficult for a scientifically "illiterate" public to make informed judgments. In Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense, Michael Zimmerman takes on a wide range of falsifiers, disinformation specialists, and charlatans to provide readers with the scientific background necessary to evaluate environmental and other current issues that increasingly may be a matter of life and death.

Zimmerman begins by showing just what science is--and how the criteria of skepticism and falsifiability distinguish it from pseudo-science and mysticism. He offers intelligent, entertaining, and sometimes scathing analyses of bad science--from lottery "systems" and creationism to graphologists and homeopaths, from food and product safety scams to outright scientific fraud. In each case he shows exactly what to watch for--how the most outrageously false claims oftencontain a grain of truth, and how valid scientific findings may be distorted or selectively quoted to serve the ends of government, business, or special interest groups.

The author of a syndicated newspaper column on scientific and environmental issues, Michael Zimmerman has been hailed by supporters in environmental groups and sharply criticized by his opponents. Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense is sure to provoke both controversy and debate.

"Increasingly large portions of the American public are scientifically illiterate. By this I mean not that many people are unaware of specific scientific 'facts,' although there can be no doubt that they are. Rather, in pointing to scientific illiteracy I mean something far more rudimentary: an inability to differentiate science from pseudoscience. Science, based on skepticism and dependent on both falsifiability and experimentation, is dramatically different from pseudoscience, based on faith and dependent on gullibility. While pseudoscience can surely be entertaining, whether it be matching astrological signs with a date or playing paranormal parlor games, the situation becomes very different when the inability to distinguish between the two means that important decisions are made on the basis of superstitious drivel.--Michael Zimmerman, in Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801857744
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 09/16/1997
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 220
Product dimensions: 6.05(w) x 8.96(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Michael Zimmerman is dean of the College of Letters and Science and professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.

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