Synopses & Reviews
In his famous 1959 Rede lecture at Cambridge University, the scientifically-trained novelist C.P. Snow described science and the humanities as "two cultures," separated by a "gulf of mutual incomprehension." And the humanists had all the cultural power—the low prestige of science, Snow argued, left Western leaders too little educated in scientific subjects that were increasingly central to world problems: the elementary physics behind nuclear weapons, for instance, or the basics of plant science needed to feed the world's growing population.
Now, Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, a journalist-scientist team, offer an updated "two cultures" polemic for America in the 21st century. Just as in Snow's time, some of our gravest challenges—climate change, the energy crisis, national economic competitiveness—and gravest threats--global pandemics, nuclear proliferation—have fundamentally scientific underpinnings. Yet we still live in a culture that rarely takes science seriously or has it on the radar.
For every five hours of cable news, less than a minute is devoted to science; 46 percent of Americans reject evolution and think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old; the number of newspapers with weekly science sections has shrunken by two-thirds over the past several decades. The public is polarized over climate change—an issue where political party affiliation determines one's view of reality—and in dangerous retreat from childhood vaccinations. Meanwhile, only 18 percent of Americans have even met a scientist to begin with; more than half can't name a living scientist role model.
For this dismaying situation, Mooney and Kirshenbaum don't let anyone off the hook. They highlight the anti-intellectual tendencies of the American public (and particularly the politicians and journalists who are supposed to serve it), but also challenge the scientists themselves, who despite the best of intentions have often failed to communicate about their work effectively to a broad public—and so have ceded their critical place in the public sphere to religious and commercial propagandists.
A plea for enhanced scientific literacy, Unscientific America urges those who care about the place of science in our society to take unprecedented action. We must begin to train a small army of ambassadors who can translate science's message and make it relevant to the media, to politicians, and to the public in the broadest sense. An impassioned call to arms worthy of Snow's original manifesto, this book lays the groundwork for reintegrating science into the public discourse--before it's too late.
"Mooney and Kirshenbaum complement one another seamlessly in Unscientific America to deliver a hard hitting message informed by their years of experience in the public eye and behind a lab bench. The writing is superb, the narratives concise and easy to follow, and at 132 pages plus footnotes it is easily digested by readers of all ages and backgrounds. Order it, read it, and hope this book serves as a wake up call to Americans, and a catalyst to politicians, before it's too late." Daily Kos
"A truly vital book for the future of our country, because we will fail to revive our nation if we continue to marginalize science and the scientific community." Buzzflash.com
"[H]ighlights the Sagan-and Gould-shaped holes in our current scientific discourse." Seed Magazine
"[L]ays out in great and depressing detail just how the culture of science fails to match up with the ways that politics and the mass media work, and how it got to be this way. The problems really are huge, and if anything, they're getting worse, not better." Chad Orzel, Uncertain Principles
"I wish I had written this book...solid, concise writing that wastes no ink or paper (just 132 pages, not counting endnotes) getting to the heart of the problem." James Hrynyshyn, The Island of Doubt
Climate change, the energy crisis, nuclear proliferation — many of the most urgent problems of twenty-first century require scientific solutions. And yet Americans are paying less and less attention to scientists. For every five hours of cable news, less than a minute is devoted to science; 46 percent of Americans believe that God, not evolution, created life on earth; the number of newspapers with science sections has shrunk from ninety-five to thirty-three since 1989. The disconnect between the scientific community and American culture grows wider every day.
In Unscientific America, journalist and best-selling author Chris Mooney and scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum explain how corporate interests, a weak education system, science-phobic politicians, and hyperspecialized scientists have created this dangerous state of affairs. They also propose a broad array of initiatives that could reverse the current trend and lead to the greater integration of science into our national discourse — before it is too late.
An impassioned polemic about the dangers of America's scientific illiteracy.
Journalist and bestselling author Mooney and scientist Kirshenbaum offer an impassioned polemic about the dangers of America's scientific illiteracy. They go on to propose a broad array of initiatives that could lead to a greater integration of science into the national discourse.
Climate change, the energy crisis, nuclear proliferationmany of the most urgent problems of the twenty-first century require scientific solutions, yet America is paying less and less attention to scientists. For every five hours of cable news, less than one minute is devoted to science, and the number of newspapers with science sections has shrunk from ninety-five to thirty-three in the last twenty years. In Unscientific America
, journalist and best-selling author Chris Mooney and scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum explain this dangerous state of affairs, proposing a broad array of initiatives that could reverse the current trend.
An impassioned call to arms, Unscientific America exhorts Americans to reintegrate science into public discoursebefore it is too late.
About the Author
Chris Mooney is a contributing editor to Science Progress
and author of the New York Times
bestseller, The Republican War on Science
, and Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming
. He contributes to many publications including Wired
, and The American Prospect
. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Sheril Kirshenbaum is a marine scientist and Research Associate at Duke University. Previously, she has served as a congressional science fellow and pop radio disc jockey. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Together, they blog at The Intersection (http://www.scienceblogs.com/intersection).