Oooh, look! “Science Czar” John Holdren has recommended Chris & Sheril’s Unscientific America in Foreign Policy Magazine’s Global Thinkers Book Club.

It’s so nice to see the two topics most likely to draw hecklers to my blog, brought together at last! Maybe all the angry right-wingers and New Atheists will cancel each other out. . . ? Nah, Santa’s not that good to me. Sigh.


  1. #1 Badger3k
    December 11, 2009

    I’ll break my normal pattern and ask the same question I would have asked on the other blogger writing about a book on the pluto re-naming:


    To elaborate: so what? A lot of intelligent people recommend Ayn Rand as well, but we all know it’s gobshite. Argument from authority of from Ego? (as in “this really intelligent guy likes my book, so it must be fantastic”) Until Mooney can actually address the substantive criticisms directed at the book, there’s still no reason for me to read it. Just like the “why Pluto should be a planet” dreck.

    Sorry it’s not more heckling, but it’s really not worth it. I just can’t figure out why posts like these are made, and finally broke my silence to ask why.

  2. #2 John Grant
    December 12, 2009


    Until Mooney can actually address the substantive criticisms directed at the book, there’s still no reason for me to read it.

    Thank you for sharing, Badger3k. Now, could you pipe down and let the rest of us decide whether or not we want to read the book?

  3. #3 Jessica Palmer
    December 12, 2009

    Badger 3K said:

    “Until Mooney can actually address the substantive criticisms directed at the book, there’s still no reason for me to read it.”

    I’m going to spell something out here that I think is worth saying.

    If I want to rip a book to shreds, I read it first. Then I am knowledgeable about the book’s content and arguments and can do an extra-fine job of ripping.

    If I don’t think a book is worth my time – and certainly no one has time to read every book – then I don’t read it. That’s fine. But I also don’t go around attacking it, because I am not yet qualified to do so. And I certainly don’t demand that an author address “substantive criticisms” for my satisfaction, until I’ve read his or her book for myself. It’s not like reading a couple hundred pages is so impossibly hard. Grow up, get off your ass and do your homework. If you don’t want to support the author financially, go to a Barnes and Noble or a library and read it there.

    The attacks on Holdren were mainly from right-wingers who had not bothered to read the textbook in question. I couldn’t get the whole textbook, but I got and read the sections of it that were being misrepresented. Many of the attacks on Unscientific America have been from astronomers (and New Atheists) who also had not bothered to read the book. It’s remarkable how similar the comments made by both groups are.

    I’m not making any endorsements from “authority.” Shockingly enough, I think that actually having invested my time to read the books in question makes my comments about their content substantive and informed, certainly more so than the comments of those who have not read it. Whoa! what a concept!

    And here’s where I get annoyed: I not only invested substantial time to actually read the book before reviewing it, so that I could debate its merits with other people who had read it also, I then spent *vast* amounts of time on my blog correcting the opinionated blather of people who have not actually bothered to do any reading themselves.

    I used to be paid to do that; it was called “teaching college.” I am not paid to do that any more. So forgive me if I don’t have any idea, Badger3K, why comments like yours are made, unless it’s to glorify laziness and ignorance, and suggest that avoiding exposing yourself to any ideas you might disagree with is somehow virtuous. If that’s how you think, may I recommend joining a cult?

  4. #4 Gaythia
    December 13, 2009

    As an aid to informed blog commenting, it would be quite useful to post a link to your own thorough and well balanced review of “Unscientific America” here. I dug through the archives to find it last August. Not all bad, its a lazy morning and you wrote some interesting things in the meantime.

    Kinda, sorta, in response to Badger3k, how should people use book recommendations? I read the Foreign Policy Magazine Global Thinkers Book Club list, because I find Foreign Policy to frequently be a source of interesting ideas. One of the other books there was “Turbulence” which is apparently about meteorologists and D-day. I thought it might be a great book to buy my father, a WWII Navy (Pacific) meteorologist. But on Amazon, the first reviewer, who claims to be a WWII Air Force Meteorologist, seems to say he thinks the science in the book is not always correct. So now, I’m not buying the book until I find someone who addresses the criticisms leveled at the book, and I figure out whether or not they are substantive. But I have made no conclusions, as Badger3k seems to have done.

    I’ve already read Unscientific America. But still, it would have been interesting if Foreign Policy had provided more information from John Holdren as to why he liked it. I feel it is a very worthwhile analysis of the current situation but would have been happier if Chris and Sherril had gotten more of the footnote material into the text. But their editor may be correct, sigh, people just don’t read so much.

  5. #5 Sven DIMilo
    December 13, 2009

    Many of the attacks on Unscientific America have been from astronomers (and New Atheists) who also had not bothered to read the book.

    This strikes me as dishonest. The comment thread you link under “New Atheists” above contains, afaict, one voice of dissent, Ian Musgrave, whose problems were with the astronomy, not anything to do with atheism of any stripe. And it was pretty clear from his comments that he had read the book (at least the part he was commenting on). If you have problems with the “New Atheism” at least shoot in the right direction.

  6. #6 Jessica Palmer
    December 13, 2009

    Sven, shut up. Seriously. So I didn’t highlight both “astronomers” and “new Atheists.” If you think that’s dishonesty, you need to get a grip on your paranoia. I have very limited knowledge of you personally, but your propensity to nitpick and use those nitpicks as the basis for sweeping generalizations, as you often do in the comments, is not a constructive trait.

    Gaythia, the link to my previous post is in the post above – it’s the one that has Sven all hyperventilating.

  7. #7 mdvlist
    December 19, 2009

    Sigh, indeed.

  8. #8 Isis the Scientist
    December 28, 2009

    Are we still discussing Unscientific America with people who haven’t read the book? Oh, for the love of fuck…

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