Anti-Science and the Assault on Democracy: Defending Reason in a Free Society

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During the Renaissance, an explosion of scientific activity not only gave way to technological advance, but it also had a deeper impact on European society; its elite, and later all of its people, applied the scientific principle of rational discourse and evidence-based inquiry to challenge traditional systems of authority, namely religious institutions and institutions that supported the monarchy. It can be argued that the Enlightenment was an outgrowth of the scientific reasoning during the Renaissance. Today we are seeing increasing attitudes towards disparaging scientific observations and their subsequent conclusions, as can be seen with members of government denying climate change, endorsing “alternative facts,” and conferring the same status to individual opinion as to scientific hypothesis. Hence, as a society we are inadequately setting priorities instead of channeling adequate resources where they are needed and solving common problems for the greater good.

This book is a collection of essays that argue weakening scientific institutions by restricting knowledge sharing and that cutting funds for scientific research effectively muzzles the scientific community, erodes scientific research, deemphasizes data-based evidence, and ultimately corrodes the foundations of our democracy. The essays roughly outline the arc of scientific thinking in a democracy from Enlightenment ideas including the notion that data-driven analysis and synthesis is a valid methodology to address societal issues. As society and the issues it faces became more complex, experts were needed to address specialized and complex issues. This led to the rise of technical elites. Post-modernism lead to the rise of relativism, which allows accepting multiple, and in some cases incompatible, views. Examples here include teaching creationism and evolutionary theory in schools. This trajectory then gave way to holding scientific hypothesis at the same level of opinions such as asserting that global warming is not real despite the mounting scientific evidence. The message is clear. We need to value those conclusions more highly than ideas that are based on less scientific data and reasoning.

Some of the essays are better written and easier to follow than others, which is an enviable outcome of works that are a collection of essays. The essays tend to be academic, and some may be more challenging to follow. However, each presents compelling arguments to infuse data-driven analysis to societal issues.

Reviewed By:

Author Michael J. Thompson, Editor • Gregory R. Smulewicz-Zucker, Editor
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 303 pages
Publisher Prometheus Books
Publish Date 2018-12-11
ISBN 9781633884748
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue Mar-19
Category Science & Nature


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