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Denying Science Reviews

National Teacher's Association
May 22, 2012
Reviewed by Rita Hoots

Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality

Denying Science may as well be titled "Ignoring evidence." This is the gist of the issues discussed in length in this fast–reading chronicle of society’s lapses in perceiving what the author judges to be the truth.

History records the public resistance to novel interpretations of natural phenomena, even when proof is proffered to substantiate the findings. Even today there is keen resistance to novel ideas that upset prevailing irrational opinions. Unfortunately too many of the public prefer to maintain beliefs based on emotion, prior instruction, or cultural attitudes. The author decries the lack of critical thinking and prevalence of science illiteracy in a citizenry that should be aware of local, national, and global problems that currently afflict us.

Examined here are science distortions in legal issues, the tobacco industry’s cover–up, medical shams, the ongoing vaccine debates, creationists’ messages, and the media attacks on science theory. Current issues dealing with health care, global warming, science education, diet, heredity, spiritual guidance, and other myriad complex matters demand cogent analysis based on evidence, and not on programmed prejudice. This is the message the author propounds in this book illustrating the unscientific reasoning currently rampant in our society.


SF Crowsnest
December 2011
Reviewed by GF Willmetts

Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality

‘Denying Science’ by John Grant is really an examination of how little school kids, especially in America, must pay attention to their lessons considering how little knowledge they end up with about the sciences and what they believe to be true. All right, he doesn’t actually say that but considering how uninformed a large percentage of adults are about science then there must be some serious consideration as to why education is failing so much that parents want to give creationism the time of day there. Much of this book focuses on people denying science in the USA but the UK gets the occasional look-in as well.

From the introduction, Grant hits on the fact that non-scientific bias happen all the time and even notable scientists let their beliefs get in the way of what turns out to be true. One thing that is odd about the results of the various polls he consulted about what people believed in what the split between those who believed in a God, around 75%, and those in the paranormal, around 30%, makes me wonder if we’re seeing a true division here and how much was a shared interest ie where was the dividing line. Then again, I’ve come across Americans who have a belief in something without ever looking at the evidence so there must be an examination of ego somewhere in all of this. Over here, we’ve often thought some things were true but we’ve also been rather quick to change our opinions when faced with actual evidence.

Grant makes a good point about how much science came from the Muslims and how many stars were named by them, including Rigel, Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, Altair and Vega. Yep, there was a time when the Muslims were ahead in science. But then, so were the Greeks. I wish Grant had pointed out the problems of what happens when countries or faiths move away from science as both give good examples. For one, going more religious and the other, I guess, too much sun.

Where Grant really goes to town is how the law in the USA and to some extent in the UK can be manipulated by so-called ‘expert’ witnesses. I imagine many people believe that these ‘experts’ credentials have been checked to ensure they are truly authoritative. It’s rather frightening to discover how many of them are self-proclaimed. I think if anything, there needs to be laws in place to ensure that any called ‘experts’ do not have any vested interest in the outcome of a court case or make any financial gain from it and not tied to either side of the court and truly independent. His case against misleading evidence leading to executions in America should make all of you think.

Actually, I think I should re-classify this as ‘expert’ singular. A lot of these problems, as with the Wakefield claims against the MMR vaccine was by one ‘expert’ and the emphasis of this by the press in believing without checking. The public, unfortunately, tend to think the press get it right all the time and even they will admit that they don’t…eventually. I suspect, with this example and something I wish Grant had actually explored, was the reasons why other scientific experts or people in authority, ie in government, don’t contest such claims more loudly. A lot of the time, I suspect they think such claims will blow over, someone else will come forward and as many work in industry, cannot speak independently and the greatest bugbear, face being sued or can’t be bothered. Of course, by then, things have moved along too far for the herd to hear them, as Grant himself points out in his chapter but scientists must be more willing to stand up and be counted. It’s also far too long since anyone has come up with the reason why the number of autism cases are rising other than perhaps more people know what the condition is these days. If anything, I suspect there is a close parallel to dyslexia not being recognised and children thought to be stupid who couldn’t learn how to read. Now more people know what autism is, the more cases that are revealed.

There are several chapters devoted to the subject of creationism theory and their rationale about God being responsible for everything. I can’t help feel that this is still a demonstration of the clash between types of people that we’ve seen over the centuries where people are struggling to understand reality. As Grant points out, there are still people in the civilised world who don’t even know that they are on a planet orbiting a star. It must raise some odd issues as to the microcosm that they live in but can see why it extends to people who anchor their beliefs in religion and rationalise everything out of that.

The other main subject that is given a lot of space is global warming and the people who don’t believe it’s happening. Grant makes a serious case against ExxonMobil and Koch Industries who are investing money in promoting this in their own self-interest. It’s a shame that they don’t invest their money in research into other uses for oil and sorting out air pollution which would be more profitable than take that course of action but then all they are demonstrating is how short-sighted they are when it comes to profit. Maybe they’re confusing profit with prophet? They’re certainly manipulating the deniers and such for their own ends. Grant also makes the point that more people have been killed involved with coal-based power stations than with nuclear power stations. This is truly enlightening and should be used as ammunition when people think they have to choose between the two.

There’s a lot about this book that should make you angry at the short-comings of those denying real science in this world we live on. Grant makes note of the key players involved in all of this and their motivation. Not all of them are driven by religion. Certainly, this book should be on most judges and politicians reading list as quickly as possible.

If you’re wavering between the two types, then this book will certainly make you think. About the only group that probably won’t are the science deniers themselves and this is the group that needs the most persuasion that they are wrong. I think the deniers should read this book or even just pointed at the chapters relating to how ExxonMobil are manipulating them for their own profit. Maybe then you can press on the fact that they need to understand science and economics and that goes back to education which is where I came in. Read and be angry.


Januqary 2012
Reviewed by Jonathan Cowie

Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality

I have to say that I do wonder whether 'political correctness' (PC) does more harm than good. Certainly it is no longer 'PC' within British science communication circles in the early 21st century to talk of C. P. Snow's 'two culture's. True, C. P. Snow (1959) simply divided the population into scientists and artists, but today we do have some artists � albeit a significant minority � who are reasonably science literate, and also there are some scientists who are hopeless outside their own specialism: which is no fault of their own as scientists are increasingly specialist, but publicly flaunting one's limitations with wild and specious statements just muddies the waters. (I have encountered numerous scientists in my career representing learned and professional societies over the decades: my admiration for many of these is marred by disdain for a minority.)

I also have to say that I have quite a bit of regard for John Grant (a.k.a. Paul Barnett) who has made significant contributions to non-fiction speculative fiction including compiling, with John Clute, The Encyclopaedia of Fantasy. But not only this, he has tackled fantasy science too with books like Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science (2007) and Bogus Science (2009): both are small-format gems.

Denying Science is the next step on from the afore two titles and has a more contemporary focus: the previous titles included topics from over a century ago such as the flat-Earth dogma. As you might guess from this new title, it is an exploration of how a minority attempt to mislead the general public with pseudo-science and/or a deliberate misrepresentation of scientific understanding. This would not matter except that the topics that are this band of miscreants' foci are also those of considerable public import, hence concern. Issues such as: AIDS, biological evolution and the teaching thereof, as well as anthropogenic (human-generated) climate change. The principal issues of fraudulent science explored in Denying Science are those of evolution and climate change, but we do get brief excursions into topics such as smoking, vaccination and eugenics.

This book is really a must-read for everyone with a view on any of the above topics and likely to engage with someone be it formally in a public meeting or privately over a pint, with a trenchant view that goes against the established consensus. Now, this is not to say that all scientists are right: far from it. Contrary to popular belief, science is not about being 'right'; it is about being as least wrong as possible. Science does not proceed by seeking the truth (that is a by-product of the scientific method) but is moves forward through falsification. A new paradigm arises, such as the space-time curvature of space, and this falsifies the former Newtonian view of motion in flat-space or, for that matter, the quantum behaviour of sub-atomic particles. (For more on 'falsification' and science, Google Karl Popper.) However, within the context of present-day understanding (whenever that may be for you reading this now), the established consensus can range from one of extreme confidence (the Earth is getting warmer due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide), to one of certainty with low confidence (it is unlikely that the Gulf stream will be disrupted in the first third of the 21st century) or, if you like certainty with a lack of clarity (we know with confidence that the Earth is warming but we do not know exactly how much it will warm by the end of the 21st century).

Here then is the rub: science is made up of many consensuses. Yet this does not mean that central tenets are in doubt. A consensus in biology is that evolution of the species is a natural phenomena and that the human species has evolved. Make no mistake, this is not where the debate about evolution is within this consensus. Instead the debate here concerns questions such as the importance or not of things like punctuated-equilibrium within evolution. Yet miscreants will say, 'ahh, there is a consensus and so there must be dissenting views to the central tenets', which of course is an unfounded leap of logic. What John Grant is doing is showing us how some are trying to persuade us through such unfounded leaps of logic that some things we really do need to know (such as AIDS is caused by HIV, vaccinations are necessary for herd immunity to control human disease, the global climate is warming with increasingly detrimental impacts to our high-population global society). Such miscreants have their own motivations: personal gain (they can make money out of being sensationalist); profit (making money out of wanton burning of fossil fuel); psychological addiction (claiming to be unable to live without profligate burning of fossil fuel); etc.   And they use a range of tools: fear (this vaccination will kill your children); lying (burning fossil fuels is not changing the environment in a detrimental way to our global high-population); misrepresentation (making up and/or misinterpreting what bona fide experts actually say); conflation of issues ('a' is followed by 'b', yet 'b' is wrong so 'a' is wrong), and so forth which even includes slander.

With Denying Science John Grant lifts the curtain on many recent science-deniers and fraudsters who are preying on innocent people's ignorance: not everyone can have a high degree of science literacy just as not everyone can be a skilled craftsman or have athletic or musical achievement. Yet we live in a global society that depends (increasingly) on the rational, nay, wise, use of technology that arises from science. Peddling untruths and blatant lies, is a criminal assault on our collective sensibilities with real life and livelihood threatening consequences. (If you are a farmer in the southwest US or SE Australia then you would be wise not to get advice from climate change deniers.) If you are an AIDS patient, listening to someone who says that it is not caused by HIV is not prudent. We need to defend ourselves against such self-serving myth-peddlers and here John Grant's book helps arm us for the fray. Make no mistake, fray it is and it is a fight we must support if we are not to let science-deniers influence those malleable politicians who unfortunately run our lives. So buy this book, more importantly read it. Of course if you support science-deniers then you are free to try ignorance and see how far that gets you.

Qualms. Well nothing much really. Prometheus' copy editor still does not know the difference between common and proper nouns and so we get 'earth' (which means 'soil') when 'Earth' (meaning 'our planet') was actually intended. The only other thing is that I would have liked an explanation as to how science works and why informed challenging is so important. Here I felt that John Grant was perhaps a little harsh (only by a smidgen) on Roger Pielke who rightly has questioned carbon sensitivity assumptions (albeit over-enthusiastically and now needs to ease up a bit) and IPCC competence (the Himalaya ice issue in the 2007 Assessment was avoidable had the chapter editor been on the ball regarding IPCC protocol and so the Chair should have sacked him immediately), not to mention Kyoto mechanism cheating. Eugenics as ever gets bad press: does anyone really want researchers to stop work on genetic disease and assess the implications for the population as a whole? But these are minor points, and Grant's coverage does rightly focus on how such issues have been over-used by denialists who, grasping at straws, will inflate anything that they think will serve their criminal assaults. Perhaps John Grant will cover such matters in future works. I really hope so as I would like there to be more books that expose those that promulgate deception.   If we are to face the challenges that the future will throw at us then our best chance of winning the future for our children is with understanding and knowledge, not fear and ignorance.


Science & Nature
February 21, 2012
Reviewed by Glenn Dallas

Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality

Bad science is out there. People use it to further political agendas, push religious arguments, glorify themselves, or out of sheer misinformed delusion. From climate change and evolution to vaccines and AIDS treatments, important subjects have been marginalized, mismanaged, and outright assaulted by bad science and misinformation. Make no joke about this: people have died because of this. And more people will die because of it.

Denying Science is John Grant’s masterpiece, cataloging numerous assaults on science and reason by politicians, religious leaders, members of the media, wayward scientists, and the generally misinformed. And sadly, these numerous items are a mere bucket from an ocean of examples.

Through painstaking research and legwork, Grant challenges the worst of these bad science practitioners, revealing their tricks, their bogus sources, and their flat-out lies, in the hopes of curbing at least some of the bad science out there. (He even goes so far as to compile a list of the offenders to watch out for. Utterly brilliant.)

Thankfully, for all his bluster and frustration, Grant is never condescending or grandstanding. He’s simply passionate about the subject. We need more voices like Grant’s and more books like Denying Science. Read it.


New York Journal of Books
August 25, 2011
Reviewed by Nicole Parker, Ph.D

Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality

“Informed decision making is crucial for those in positions of responsibility— such as politicians who may influence scientific and environmental policy. Mr. Grant has, in Denying Science, taken an essential step toward this end.”

Denying Science by John Grant is an intelligently researched book that adheres to rational thought and rejects the increasingly common denialist view that dismisses science, evidence, and reason as being “elitist” or a part of some type of conspiracy. Mr. Grant tackles every topic from climate change, evolution, and the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke, to the anti-vaccination movement of recent years. Every chapter is full of well-researched and compelling discussion, and Mr. Grant introduces many of the forces behind the anti-science attitudes so commonly observed in the general media.

One common theme is the selective dissemination of scientific evidence by the mainstream media or by individuals and groups with an agenda: By focusing on one aspect of a study and ignoring the full scope of the evidence, it becomes possible to> enhance or downplay the implications of these scientific data in their true context.

For example, when Andrew Wakefield and co-authors published their paper in the respected medical journal Lancet discussing a potential link between the MMR vaccine and the risk of autism, much of the resulting hysteria in the media led to alarming decreases in the number of children receiving this vaccine in the United Kingdom and the United States, and—unfortunately and unsurprisingly—an increase in the number of children who subsequently developed and died from measles increased thereafter.

Although many parents were willing to risk the safety of their children by not having them vaccinated, it was quickly apparent that the frequency of autism did not decrease over the same period. One particular objection against the MMR vaccine was that the preservative used in the vaccines, thimerosal, contained mercury, which people feared would cause mercury poisoning—but on closer inspection, we find that the form of mercury thimerosal contains (ethylmercury) is not the same form of mercury that is harmful to humans, and is quickly cleared from the body.

Wakefield’s paper was formally disproven in 2011, and he was found to have numerous serious conflicts of interest. Only one example is that long before publishing the Lancet paper, Wakefield received over $800,000 to develop a “scientific” reason on which to base a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine; furthermore, the patients referred to Wakefield that were discussed in the Lancet paper were brought to him by the attorney who hired him for the purpose of the lawsuit.

The few claims by a small group of parents—recollecting, years after the fact, that their children appeared to develop symptoms of autism several days after receiving the MMR vaccine—were given disproportionately more attention than the successful vaccination of millions of children worldwide. Is it responsible to base a decision on only a few isolated unverifiable cases?

It is this imbalance, Mr. Grant argues, and incomplete understanding of the science involved, that can lead to the abandonment of reason. To counteract such views against science and reason, it is increasingly important to demand responsible and balanced scientific reporting. Informed decision making is crucial for those in positions of responsibility—such as politicians who may influence scientific and environmental policy. Mr. Grant has, in Denying Science, taken an essential step toward this end.

Reviewer Nicole Parker, Ph.D., is a medical writer who loves reading and writing about all things science.


October 20, 2011
Reviewed by By David Dickinson

Review: Denying Science by John Grant.

Ever wonder why smart people believe in dumb things? And we’re not talking the latest drivel about whose in rehab trending on Google or Yahoo, but how folks miss out on what should be basic scientific knowledge needed to interact in modern society, such as the Earth going around the Sun, man and dinosaurs occupying different epochs, CO2’s role as a greenhouse gas…

These are just some of the whoppers and true tales of science illiteracy that are recounted in John Grant’s new book, Denying Science out from Prometheus Books. In it, Mr. Grant looks at the prevailing attitudes of anti- and fringe science in modern America and its pervasive role in generating a “smoke screen” that even suckers in the educated elite. Tales of wars on evolution, climate change deniers and more are addressed and attested to in great detail in true skeptic-porn fashion. Also accorded documentation is the long standing fear and distrust of modern medicine that has found its latest outlet in the anti-vax movement, a practice that has killed more humans under the guise of “green vaccines” than it has ever saved.

Mr. Grant thoroughly and logically demolishes any of the arguments that these science naysayers could muster, but of course, that won’t stop them from trying. How do these individuals react in the face of mounting scientific evidence? By simply ignoring it or by hoping that those that shout longest and hardest are ultimately deemed “right”. Like Denialism and Unscientific America also reviewed in this space, Denying Science paints a curious but disturbing trend accelerated by the Internet; far from providing the hoped for free exchange of ideas, technology has largely provided further polarization of various opposed camps, where individuals can further validate ludicrous notions. But in the battle for the hearts and minds, we can always hope for logic to prevail…

An interesting astronomical note touched on briefly in the book is the war on modern cosmology via the “anthropogenic hypothesis”. Behind evolution and manmade global warming, the Big Bang Theory seems to be public enemy number 3 in the minds of many. Never mind that several lines of evidence support the formation of our universe 13.7 billion years ago, and said theory actually makes testable predictions such as the existence of the cosmic microwave background radiation, something you can detect with household equipment. In fact, the author points out that this trait of testable predictions serves as a good litmus test in the detection of anti-science baloney; the likes of creationism (or its thinly veiled modern incarnation, intelligent design) and climate change denial make no testable predictions that add to our knowledge, but merely infest the gaps of our current understanding. Merely throwing up our hands and saying “here be dragons” is simply not science.

Much of the book is dedicated to climate change denial, as this is probably the biggest scientific issue facing human civilization today. It is disheartening to see the shills for denial-sprouting agencies cycle through the same tired arguments; to this end, the author even notes the “seven stages of climate denial”. Darn it, it took us decades to get many of our friends to the “climate change is real, but not our fault” step; it’s discouraging to see so many back pedal to the “climate change doesn’t exist” step as we close in on yet another election year… the author draws an ample analogy between the discovery that CFCs are depleting the ozone and the path from battling corporate denialism of the facts to eventual banning and aversion of disaster. Could this be a road map to our salvation? After all, there isn’t a separate planet for the climate change deniers to trash… most alarming is the recent discovery that the release of methane beneath the arctic tundra may make further human activity a moot point. The author gives a monthly blow-by-blow of the devastating weather in 2010, and we might also add that 2011 is on track to be the most expensive year in terms of weather related damage on record.

But beyond just stating the situation in terms of science literacy is really bad, the author notes that hope does exist. In addition to providing a “who’s-who” road map in terms of science denialism at the end of the book, the author notes that a quiet change is also afoot, a realization of the hard work that needs to be done to affect our perceptions, that even amongst evangelicals a message of stewardship and forward thinking is afoot. Read Denying Science as a testimony to a curious (and hopefully soon a past) era that enjoyed the fruits of technology while ignoring the science it sprang from… one can only hope it arrived in time to not become our epitaph!


Magonia Review
August 8, 2011

Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

John Grant. Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions and the War Against Reality. Prometheus, 2011

One of the blurbs on this book describes John Grant as "the living heir of Martin Gardener", this is, I think, less than fair to Grant. Martin Gardner often took on soft targets and subjected them to ridicule, Grant takes on the big boys.

The assaults on science that Grant dissects are not, by and large, the products of isolated cranks, who are either just badly educated or who have mental health issues, they are the products of major, often well-funded and politically motivated campaigns.

Of the principle assaults Grant discusses, those which are closest to the issues often covered in Magonia are the promotion of creationism and intelligent design, the various forms of alternative medicine and the hidden memory/satanic abuse myths. The other examples are much closer to the scientific and cultural mainstreams, the campaigns against the MMR vaccine orchestrated by Andrew Wakefield; the claims that AIDS is not caused by HIV; the attempts by the tobacco industry to argue that cigarette smoking was not responsible for cancer; and the attacks on the growing evidence that human caused carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for global warming.

What is revealing is the extent to which many of the these apparently disparate campaigns all seem to have connections to each other and to figures on the far right of the US Republican Party. In the case of the climate change "deniers" a significant number seem to be funded by the US oil giant ExonMobile.

Unlike some of the soft targets that tend to be the targets of the 'skeptics movement', these anti-scientific crusades can have catastrophic consequences, take for example the endorsement of the idea that aids isn't caused by HIV by the former South African president Thabo Mbeki, that led to thousands if not millions of unnecessary deaths, and it is possible that that figure could be dwarfed if actions are not taken to both cut carbon dioxide emissions and to develop technologies to counter the worst consequences of such warming.

While much of Grant's book does at times seem to have a rather parochial US focus, no doubt because of the desperate state of politics there, we in the UK should not feel too smug. Much of the climate change 'denial' is being orchestrated by the British right, including those noted Tory newspapers The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

Many of these campaigns get the support of credential scientists of one kind or another, the retired and those whose expertise is in distant subjects tending to predominate, and this can impress people who don't understand there isn't any position on any topic that you can't get some 'credentialed scientist' to endorse.

They also tend to rely on anecdotal evidence, appeals to emotion and to vague notions of 'fairness', in which any minority however tiny can claim equal status to the vast majority. Grant also notes how they often use fake statistics and quotes from their own publications.

It is perhaps from one the topics briefly mentioned that the final horror story comes; the execution of a prisoner in Texas for an alleged arson, the evidence for which was discredited. The governor responsible for refusing the appeal and thus sending a almost certainly innocent man to his death was Rick Perry, supporter of Creationism and climate change denier and now a Republican presidential contender. – Peter Rogerson


Seek Wellness
October 7, 2011
Reviewed by Don

The Denial of Reality is a Health Hazard: All Wellness Enthusiasts Should Promote Effective Decision-Making No Less Vigorously Than Sound Nutrition and Exercise

There are dreadful consequences straight ahead for America as a direct consequence of the platforms espoused by all but one Republican presidential candidate (Jon Huntsman), namely, the denial of significant realities. The nation is already awash in dysfunctional thinking, conspiracy theories, media distortions and organized resistance to innumerable facts. Large segments of the population, it seems, cannot deal with certain realities. Though demonstrated by science, certain realities undermine and give the lie to foolish but revered superstitions. Empirical evidence touted by an overwhelming consensus of the world's scientists is, to a large segment of American society, rendered controversial by candidates Perry, Bachmann, Cain and nearly all leading contenders of the GOP nomination. The term "conservative" has been rendered synonymous with Christian. The Tea and Republican parties consist of religionists devoted more to certain ceremonial and other forms of god worship than respect for secular constitutional government. Such people are contemptuous of evidence unsupportive of their ancient dogmas. The world-views of Right Wing fundamentalists persist in the face of facts. This is in part due to early education and in part a continuation of cultural reinforcements. The future well being of individuals and the quality of life of our society hang in the balance, and the 2012 elections could enable a new critical mass of science denial. At present, these people deny scientific evidence: if they prevail, they will next be in a position to question the competence and legitimacy of scientific evidence to establish reality. They already favor an alternative reality, one based partly on biblical myths, the other on making stuff up. The next step would be to implement policies that render such demential normal and legitimate.

It seems to me that those of us who value REAL wellness, particularly the keystone quality of a developed sense of reason, should strive to do all possible to counter the hazards of science denial. Let's make this advocacy a key element of wellness promotion. The dangers of denying science are far greater in the aggregate than the hazards of poor diet and insufficient exercise. The latter are, of course, dreadful and pernicious. Science denial is disastrous to an extent we can only begin to imagine. Being fit and healthy will be of limited value if we remain awash in dysfunctions brought on by climate change and other disasters created by our rejection of reason.

Wellness enthusiasts might initiate or expand a new focus on reality advocacy as part of wellness education by reading popular science writer John Grant's new book, "Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality" (Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, 2011). Grant does a thorough job documenting the extent of the antagonism toward science in America today. The nineteen chapters over the course of 374 pages describes the damages caused by the flood-tides of science denial. Grant's new book also documents the growing hold of pseudoscience and alternative ("complementary") medicine, and shows how advertising disguises the hazards of drugs, smoking and other products and habits. It soon becomes clear to the reader how easily mountebanks of many descriptions are able to obscure sound health programs (e.g., the case of the anti-vaccine movement). Attention is also devoted to the influence the anti-intellectual trend has had on our culture. While Republican candidates for president did not create these disabling conditions, their positions on campaign and other issues do reinforce the worst of the lot. The fact of science denial is also at the root of the successes of New Age gurus, prosperity preachers, healers who channel god, the creationist advance in science classes, the climate change skeptics and others who promote that which is contrary to the clear lessons of established science. This sorry state is a consequence of gullible, easily fooled, under-educated people facing a stark choice - at least for them: whom to believe. Should they look to the science deniers or the scientists? Alas, those who find Republican presidential candidates worth taking seriously are very likely to go with the science deniers.

As John Grant makes clear in the first chapter of "Denying Science," a non-existent god won't help us. We're on our own and all we really have to understand reality is our brains in good working order. There is no better window into reality than what Robert Green Ingersoll called reason: "I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the starless night. Blown and flayed by passion's storms, and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish it and nought remains. Ingersoll linked reason with observation and experience, calling all three the holy trinity of science."

Consider, for just a moment, the two ways that Ingersoll described as diametrically opposed approaches for understanding reality. Read this quote from Ingersoll and ask yourself which of the two would be embraced by the Republican contenders for that party's nomination for president, and which by those who respect and rely on science: "There are two ways -- the natural and the supernatural. One way is to live for the world we are in, to develop the brain by study and investigation, to take, by invention, advantage of the forces of nature, to the end that we may have good houses, raiment and food, to the end that the hunger of the mind may be fed through art and science. The other way is to live for another world that we expect, to sacrifice this life that we have for another that we know not of. The other way is by prayer and ceremony to obtain the assistance, the protection of some phantom above the clouds."

If, as I imagine given your presence at this website, you favor the first approach Ingersoll described, I think you will very much enjoy "Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality.


Library Journal
August 2011
Reviewed by Michael D. Cramer


Grant, John. Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality. Prometheus. Aug. 2011. c.350p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781616143992. $25. SCI

Our society’s unprecedented access not only to multiple sources of information but to a seemingly infinite number of sources within single mediums (via cable television and the Internet) is thrilling. However, as popular science and science fiction writer Grant (Discarded Science; Corrupted Science), whose real name is Paul Barnett, carefully demonstrates here, the multitude of sources can also work against a democratic society as it tries to move forward collectively, particularly with regard to scientific topics. Drawing examples from topics such as global warming, AIDS, evolution, and eugenics, Grant cogently presents his case for how corporations as well as religious and political groups can skillfully present ostensibly scientific information that is utterly untrue or biased for their own self-serving purposes, confusing and misleading the general public. Of particular use to readers are the connections Grant notes among people, news networks, and other organizations, revealing who knows whom, with regard to each topic he covers. VERDICT The only major item missing in this otherwise thoughtful book is a discussion about how we might improve the current situation. Recommended for general collections and those on science and society and government.—Michael D. Cramer, Schwarz BioSciences, RTP, NC

Science & Technology Reviews, August 2011