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Look for real science, not agenda science

by Evan | Mar 13, 2017
Science Lab

Science serves as a whipping boy for both the political right and the left. Often times, the right demands ever more evidence that pollution speeds up global warming; the left insists that scientists who advocate genetically modified crops are agri-biz stooges. The right pooh-poohs the destruction of species and ecosystems; the left insists that scientists who advocate immunizations are big pharma stooges. And who knows where people are coming from when they assert that scientists cover up evidence of superior aliens directing the course of human events?

So, how can you tell someone is trying to sell you science to promote their own agenda? When you want to evaluate science -- maybe even detect pseudoscience -- who you gonna call? Hopefully, not the Ghostbusters. Instead, call your local librarian, who can draw upon many books written to help figure out who is doing solid scientific research and who is just blowing ideological smoke.   While librarians, like everyone else, tend to be diverse in our philosophical beliefs, we leave those at the door.  Whatever our personal leanings, we value solid research.  What kind of criteria do we use?  NBC and Forbes offer the examples of the types of questions we ask when evaluating information.

The variety of books in our collection may help you appreciate a fundamental aspect of science: uncertainty. Good science does not require absolute theoretical certainty. It does require clear thinking, ideally based on observations and/or experiments that other scientists repeat. Even then, it is subject to improvement as more is learned. 

Here's a sampling of relevant works:

Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye, by Michael Shermer.

Science : All the Facts that Turned Out to Be Science Fiction, by Graeme Donald.  

Climatology Versus Pseudoscience: Exposing the Failed Predictions of Global Warming Skeptics, by Dana Nuccitelli.

Coming Climate Crisis? Consider the Past, Beware the Big Fix, by Claire L. Parkinson. 
Monkeys, Myths and Molecules: Separating Fact from Fiction, and the Science of Everyday Life, by Joseph A. Schwarcz.

And here are a couple of edgier titles; the first (from the cultural left) criticizes medical science as too limited, the second (from the cultural right) decries a national climate of fear that is fed by popular uses of science. What do you think of them?

Mind over Medicine, by Lissa Rankin.

From Cupcakes to Chemicals, by Julie Gunlock.

EvanEvan - Married, three children, two grandchildren, formerly a newspaper journalist, now a public librarian, at all times a board game nut.
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