Book list for "Science and Anti-Science" platform

[This is a guest post by Claude Bernard, PhD, presenter of the platform “Science and Anti-Science,” Sunday, February 8. My personal thanks to Claude for taking on this important topic.]

The following is a list of books (and a website) that I found to be both informative and thoughtful on the issue of science versus anti-science. My list deals mainly with the two examples I chose to look at: climate change and vaccinations.

I have used bits and pieces of the books in preparing my Feb. 8 platform; if you are interesting in exploring the issues of science and anti-science more, this list might be a place to start.

Danny Chivers, Climate Change Denial, New Internationalist Essential Guide, Adelaide, Australia, 2012. A very nice, short (30 page) summary of what deniers of global warming say, and why it is wrong. Good preparation for discussions with a colleague or family member who thinks global warming might be a hoax.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, Bloomsbury, New York, 2010. Oreskes and Conway expose the “playbook” of science denial, and show how the same techniques were used to fight the science of (1) smoking and cancer, (2) acid rain, (3) objections to Reagan’s `Star Wars’ program, (4) second-hand tobacco smoke, (5) the ozone hole, and (6) global warming. Oreskes and Conway explore the motivations of the anti-scientists in a way that seems very believable to me. I was greatly surprised to learn that many of the same anti-science leaders played a role in each of the above 6 controversies. Most of the “anti-scientists,” in fact, had been respected scientists earlier but let their ideology overrule their scientific judgment.

I also highly recommend the website Skeptical Science: Getting Skeptical about Global Warming Skepticism, It is a place to go for up-to-date reviews of the science and cogent answers to the complaints of climate-change deniers.

Eula Biss, On Immunity: An Inoculation, Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, MI, 2014. A wonderful, literate meditation on vaccines and how we think about them. Biss weaves her own experiences and fears as a mother with the history and science of vaccination. Fascinating. My only quibble is about her treatment of Rachel Carson’s legacy: I think she blames the resurgence of malaria in Africa too much on the banning of DDT in western countries, and doesn’t consider the problem of mosquito resistance to DDT due to overuse before the ban.

Paul Offit, M.D., Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, Basic Books, Philadelphia, PA, 2011. Offit is one of the top experts on vaccines. He is a chaired Professor of Vaccinology and Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, as well as the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His book is a careful, thorough, and well-written exposition/indictment of the anti-vaccine movement. Dr. Offit is a developer of one of the currently-used vaccines for rotavirus. His vaccine has already saved tens of thousands of lives, and may save millions if its use in the developing world continues to increase. But he is attacked as “Dr. Proffit” by anti-vaccine crusaders because his hospital and he have made substantial profits from the royalties to the vaccine.