Item description for The Politically Incorrect Guide(tm) to Science (Politically Incorrect Guides) by Tom Bethell...
Overview Argues that the explanations of issues such as global warming, stem cell research, and evolution that are presented to the public are actually formulated by liberals seeking to advance their own agenda and preserve their research funding.
Publishers Description "If the globe is warming, is mankind responsible, or is the sun?" Such a statement does not appear out of place in Bethell's entertaining account of how modern science is politically motivated and in desperate need of oversight. Bethell writes in a compulsively readable style, and although he provides legitimate insight into the potential benefits of nuclear power and hormesis, some readers will be turned off when he attempts to disprove global warming and especially evolution. Throughout the book, Bethell makes questionable claims about subjects as varied as AIDS ("careful U.S. studies had already shown that at least a thousand sexual contacts are needed to achieve heterosexual transmission of the virus") and extinction ("It is not possible definitely to attribute any given extinction to human activity"), and backs up his arguments with references to the music magazine SPIN and thriller-writer Michael Crichton. Ironically, Bethell ends up proving his own premise by producing a highly politicized account of how liberal intellectuals and unchecked government agencies have created a "white-coated priesthood" whose lust for grant money has driven them to produce fearsome (but in Bethell's view, false) tales of ozone destruction and AIDS pandemics. In the end, this book is unlikely to sway readers who aren't already in Bethell's ideological camp, as any points worthy of discussion get lost in the glut of unsourced claims that populate this latest installment of "The Politically Incorrect Guide" series.
Citations And Professional Reviews The Politically Incorrect Guide(tm) to Science (Politically Incorrect Guides) by Tom Bethell has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Library Journal - 12/19/2005
Ingram Advance - 11/01/2005 page 37
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Studio: Regnery Publishing, Inc.
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.1" Width: 7.34" Height: 0.66" Weight: 1.04 lbs.
Release Date Oct 30, 2005
Publisher Regnery Publishing, Inc.
Series Politically Incorrect Guide
ISBN 089526031X ISBN13 9780895260314
Availability 0 units.
More About Tom Bethell
Tom Bethell is the Washington, DC correspondent for "The American Spectator"and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
Tom Bethell currently resides in Washington, in the state of District Of Columbia.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Politically Incorrect Guide(tm) to Science (Politically Incorrect Guides)?
A Disgrace! Feb 11, 2008
This is not a guide to science! The contents of the book are as inane as its title!
Won't help "true believers" Jan 15, 2008
Those who are "true believers" on either side of scientific or political debates will not be swayed by this book. Read the reviews carefully and you will see that those to the left hate this book (and are unconvinced of its claims) and those to the right love this book (and the book has done little to alter their thinking).
However, those with open minds will find it informative. What is the big take home lesson? All those things that scientists (especially publicly funded or government employed scientists) and politicians tell as are looming crises - are not nearly as much of a crisis as they would have us believe. This includes: greenhouse gases, the environment, nuclear power, AIDS, radon, etc. And when many scientists, politicians and teachers talk about things as if they are "facts" - be wary - they often are not. Some of this even had practical applications for everyday life (i.e. we needn't worry about radon in our basements).
My chief complaints are: (1) the writing style was disorganized and difficult to follow at times, (2) some arguments need to be tightened up, and (3) some important facts have been omitted. In general, it appears that the author does have an agenda that leans towards the right (though he is quick to point the finger at those on the right as well) - and I wish he had made a better effort to present a balanced view. It would have been nice if he had proposed some more tangible solutions to the problems he has identified as well.
insulting Jan 8, 2008
I'm a scientist and I have to defend evidence and change my own opinions as a part of my day-to-day work. I'm used to questioning myself. That being said, I find it more than a little offensive that I'm being accused by the author and his ilk of having a secret liberal agenda. More troubling, however, is the fact that my profession is being attacked by someone who clearly doesn't understand it. The scientific ignorance demonstrated by this book (and summarized nicely by some other reviewers) is simply embarrassing. If I were conservative, I would be falling over myself in a frenzy to disavow any link to this book and its arguments. It's almost an affirmation of every negative stereotype about conservatives (particularly religious conservatives): the tendency to see a liberal conspiracy in literally everything, the invoking of the Bible at every opportunity, the contempt for intellect...you name it.
And if you think I'm a liberal ideologue, try and find a scientist who can say a good word about this book after reading it. If you can get them to stop laughing.
A little Cliffs-noteish, but an enlightening read Dec 26, 2007
Many have suggested that this book is either the best indictment of the scientific funding racket or an oversized brochure for the platform of the far right. It is neither. It is worth a look, however the range of topics might cause the skeptical (and definitely the committed liberal) reader to lose focus and find one theory to use as an an excuse to reject the work in its entirety. Several reviewers have gleefully done this, making me wonder how many seconds they spent flipping through it at Borders instead of buying it and actually reading it.
The book opened my eyes to certain "truths" I've been led to accept over the years without argument, notably the AIDS epidemic in Africa. That the UN and others might have been lying about the statistics in order to garner more world funding for AIDS programs is a shocking possibility, and the author backs up what he says with citations from credible sources. In fact, two months ago the UN revealed that they were overestimating the AIDS statistics of the world, vindicating the author's stance on this issue. Though the UN did not come out and address the alleged flaws in AIDS reporting in Africa (i.e., people who have not even tested HIV positive, but exhibit certain symptoms such as weight loss and diarrhoea are counted as AIDS statistics), at least their candor is a start.
He does a fine job of making a relevant and engaging book that asks some serious questions about assumptions we've all heard through the media mantras (DDT is bad; global warming is real and it's our fault, AIDS is going to kill everybody in Africa, etc.). In that sense it is written like all the other books in the "politically correct" series, which I call (not too derisively) the Cliffs Notes approach. However, the tome probably loses focus by covering too many issues. People have short attention spans and emotional bases for their reactions. Thus, giving them too many challenges to their established beliefs may be too much to take for some readers. The passage about intelligent design seems to have set people off in particular. Were it not for that section (I'm not a Darwinist at all, but the ID argument has its flaws), the detractors may have stuck around to consider the arguments in other areas.
Therein lies the problem with the Cliffs Notes approach: the author cannot do justice to each and every subject and still make it a reasonably sized book. Nevertheless, it is engaging and thought provoking and worth a read. Though I'm all for challenging the status quo with well reasoned and researched arguments, sometimes the shotgun approach kills the entire effort at attempting to convince people of your point of view.
All over the place, plus good claims completely outweighed by dubious ones Sep 26, 2007
Following the guides to American History and Islam, the then-new "Politically Incorrect Guide" series turned to science for its third title, released at the tail end of 2005.
Given the politicisation of science since the Kyoto Protocol and controversies over "Creation Science", this was to be expected. However, "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science", not unexpectedly, never gets into a clear and consistent routine - Tom Bethell seems simply to want to refute claims regardless of the evidence either way. For the most part, he writes like a contrarian relying on belief without any evidence. With evidence and practicality, I have no problem with strongly-held beliefs, but without them there can be many traps.
The tone is set from the first two chapters, on global warming and nuclear power. The absence from the book of clear evidence, like changes in Australian rainfall, that strongly supports man-made global warming is really occurring, nor of evidence that in the supposedly not-warming Southern Hemisphere, sea surface temperatures have actually been rising more rapidly according to many climate journals I read as a student at Melbourne University. Like the PIG to global warming, the critical mistake of taking 1970s "global cooling" issue out of the context of the discovery of glacial/interglacial cycles during the past 400,000 years is made. Theories of these cycles have been refined considerably since "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science" was published. Bethell's view that nuclear power is clean is likewise problematic: uranium is one of the most energy-intensive metals to produce and when that is factored in nuclear power is still a big producer of greenhouse gases.
Tied in are Bethell's views on biodiversity. Whilst in remote, infertile, rugged areas there will always exist extra species to be discovered, Bethell ignores how many species are on the verge of extinction either from global warming or habitat loss. He ignores scientists' well-established knowledge that a population below 500 individuals is not viable. This makes the threat to biodiversity much deeper than he dares say. Even his views on evolution contradict Tim Flannery's demonstration that in many environments competition is not an important factor in natural selection, as Bethell appears to think.
Whilst his claims about the dangers of cloning and genetic engineering I wholeheartedly agree with, even these sections of the book ignore issues that are very important, like the potential for genetically engineered plants to become "superweeds" that take over cropland and natural vegetation uncontrollably. His look at cancer and the pesticide debate is done equally poorly with many facts brushed over in a manner that is most likely deliberate. Examples are real or potential resistance to DDT in malarial mosquitoes, or the fact that most zoologists know many animals can never form fossils because they lack hard parts.
Whilst the section on science and religion does have some real evidence behind it, Bethell's inability or refusal to look at any single topic in a chronological or otherwise sequential manner makes this part of the book equally lacking.
The fourth book in this series on women, sex and feminism was so logical in structure and arguments (even with poor citation) that you wonder how even so parochial an organisation as Regnery cannot find someone capable of a better job than done in "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science". I must say that even if some of its points are actually valid, this book is too poorly structured and has so many dubious claims that giving it more than one star is impossible.