cover image Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories About the World Are So Often Wrong

Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories About the World Are So Often Wrong

Andrew Shtulman. Basic, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-465-05394-0

This timely, important, and well-crafted book by Shtulman, a professor of cognitive science at Occidental College, voices a convincing and unsettling argument about the persistence of science denial that has even broader implications for the state of public discourse. After noting that science denial is not a new phenomenon, Shtulman identifies a reason for its persistence that readers may not have suspected: intuitive theories, %E2%80%9Cour untutored explanations for how the world works.%E2%80%9D These best guesses are often wrong, but they give people a reassuring sense that they understand more than they actually do. Several examples, such as the belief that heat is a thing that is transferred between objects rather than a process, provide ample support for his thesis. He observes that the danger posed by intuitive theories is compounded by the difficulty of moving beyond them when presented with contradictory evidence. Restructuring views is difficult, but not impossible, Shtulman maintains, if we %E2%80%9Cget our hands dirty in the details of the knowledge itself: the concepts that need to be differentiated, collapsed, reanalyzed, or discarded.%E2%80%9D This thoughtful analysis merits a wider audience than it is likely to receive, but perhaps its lessons will reach educators and leaders who are in a position to spread them. (Apr.)