Modern Science Writers Leave Science Behind
Any book that touches upon politics almost automatically angers half of the American public, regardless of what is written inside of it. It takes a special person—an objective, open-minded and self-critical one—to read and learn from a science book that criticizes people with whom the reader likes and agrees with politically.
Recently, Pacific Standard published a review (“Red Science, Blue Science,” January/February 2013) by Wray Herbert, a pop psychology writer,of political writer Chris Mooney’s book The Republican Brain and my new book, Science Left Behind, which I co-authored with Hank Campbell.
Herbert fawned over Mooney’s book, the primary thrust of which is that psychology, neuroscience, and genetics explain why Republicans are “smart idiots” and reality deniers. Herbert found Mooney’s book “convincing,” despite the fact that few (if any) scientists would agree. In fact, Mooney’s main premise has been roundly debunked as pseudoscientific nonsense by a neuroscientist, a biochemist, and high-profile evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne. As described in the New York Times, such critics resent the “bastardization [of neuroscience] by glib, sometimes ill-informed, popularizers.”
Similarly, our book makes the point—among many others—that such politicization of science illustrates everything that is wrong with modern science journalism. In our chapter “The Death of Science Journalism,” we discuss how too many science writers have morphed into cheerleaders who uncritically embrace progressive political causes at the expense of good science. For these writers, science isn’t about uncovering the wonders of the natural world; instead, it’s just another platform from which to bash and demonize political opponents. We believe such journalistic malpractice epitomizes science writing at its absolute worst.