Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science

Dave Levitan. Norton, $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-393-35332-7
In this breezy read, science journalist Levitan contends that when politicians talk about science, “they end up spewing misinformation and errors virtually at every step.” He goes on to argue that detecting these inaccuracies is fairly easy: “This book groups these rhetorical and logical errors into clear types to help you find them when they arise, and to cut through the misinformation once you’ve spotted them.” He focuses on 12 such types, including cherry-picking facts, ignoring follow-up studies that yield contrarian results, ridiculing scientific studies by ignoring the context in which they were performed, and simply fabricating results. Levitan presents a range of examples that demonstrate his point, including controversies over fracking and vaccination, but he devotes most of his time to climate change, using political statements about the topic to illustrate most of his 12 types of error. In each case, he presents a politician’s argument and then follows up with a readily understandable explication of the underlying science. The book is accessibly written but sarcasm-heavy, and it superficially flits from topic to topic. Levitan professes to focus on science, but his critique of politicians can be applied to virtually all disciplines and largely amounts to suggesting that constituents use critical thinking skills when listening to political speech. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2016
Release date: 01/17/2017
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-393-35333-4
MP3 CD - 978-1-5436-2754-1
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