First Reviews of the New Book Unscientific America

Science & Religion today has some early reviews of a new book entitled Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future.  The authors (Chris Mooney and marine biologist Sheril Kirshenbaum [who blog together at Discover magazine’s The Intersection]) apparently point out that by

talking down to the misinformed—and outright insulting the religious—scientists . . . do more harm than good in their quest to enshrine reason in American politics and culture.

PZ Myers, a champion of scientific atheism, doesn’t care for this approach.  He complains that the

book entirely neglects the anti-scientific forces. Our salvation apparently lies entirely in the hands of scientists who quietly promote the positive values of the scientific outlook, while turning their eyes away from deep-rooted values and institutions that directly threaten science. To challenge those would be to offend people! And if we offend anyone, we lose! It’s an exceptionally defeatist attitude in which they plainly recognize a serious problem in American society — it’s the premise of the whole book! — but at the same time, demands that we avoid addressing the structural roots of those problems. …

The bottom line is that Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s book recites the obvious at us, that there is a fundamental disconnect between science and the popular imagination in our country, but offers no new solutions, and in fact would like to narrow our options to a blithe and accommodating compromise of science with rampant ignorance. Their own bigotry blinds them to a range of approaches offered by the “New Atheists”…a group that is not so closed to the wide range of necessarily differing tactics that such a deep problem requires as Mooney and Kirshenbaum are. It’s not a badly written book, but it’s something worse: it’s utterly useless.

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