Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science by Dave Levitan

Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science

An eye-opening tour of the political tricks that subvert scientific progress.In 1980, Ronald Reagan created one of the dumbest talking points of all time: “I’m not a scientist, but . . .” Since then, politicians have repeatedly committed egregious transgressions against scientific knowledge prefaced by this seemingly innocuous phrase. Yet, as science journalist Dave Levita...

Title:Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:039335332X
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:272 pages

Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science Reviews

  • jeanmarie

    This book is well-written, interesting, packed full of interesting anecdotes and delivers exactly what it says it will: the many (13) ways politicians get science wrong.

    So why 3 stars? Honestly, I feel it's 3.5 but you can't do half stars, so here we are. The book is great in many respects and the different ways it lists are legitimately different ways (cherry picking vs over simplifying, for example).

    However, the problem for me was that this book just read as a (very interesting and engaging)

    This book is well-written, interesting, packed full of interesting anecdotes and delivers exactly what it says it will: the many (13) ways politicians get science wrong.

    So why 3 stars? Honestly, I feel it's 3.5 but you can't do half stars, so here we are. The book is great in many respects and the different ways it lists are legitimately different ways (cherry picking vs over simplifying, for example).

    However, the problem for me was that this book just read as a (very interesting and engaging) laundry list. I've been delaying writing this review because I'm really not sure what I was expecting or how the author could have done better -- this book LITERALLY is a compilation of how politicians get it wrong and it's so well-done. The examples are spot on and easy to interpret, clearly relating back to the chapter's point, for example.

    I still felt like something was missing. I feel like I learned how to spot the different types of mistakes, but there wasn't really an arc -- we don't see much beyond just 'how they get it wrong'. I guess that is why the book felt so unsatisfying. I'm not sure if it's fair to expect the book to deliver beyond its premise, but because of how it was laid out, I had a very hard time making myself read it. Each chapter was more of the same with a slightly different twist.

    So, who should read this book? People who a) engage in political debate or research and want some handy facts and anecdotes or who are b) dissatisfied with politics as-is and want a better way to catalogue, explain, or describe why this 'not a scientist' bit is unsatisfactory.

    Note: I received a copy of this book through a goodreads giveaway

  • Richard

    Considering that the White House is currently occupied by the most disingenuous president in America's history, this book is a must read for anyone interested in recognizing how science is misused to buttress political agendas. Citing primarily modern examples of politicians employing scientific non-facts to mislead their constituents, Dave Levitan names names, quotes their own words, and then proceeds to disprove their statements with the real scientific facts, which he has scrupulously researc

    Considering that the White House is currently occupied by the most disingenuous president in America's history, this book is a must read for anyone interested in recognizing how science is misused to buttress political agendas. Citing primarily modern examples of politicians employing scientific non-facts to mislead their constituents, Dave Levitan names names, quotes their own words, and then proceeds to disprove their statements with the real scientific facts, which he has scrupulously researched.

    Written in a breezy, conversational style, "Not A Scientist" is a surprisingly quick and enjoyable read. The data used to rebut the political pseudoscience is presented in a simple and straight forward manner, enabling even scientifically challenged readers to get in on the fun.

    Unfortunately, even though the publishing date for this work is April 2017, it was clearly written in early 2016, and thereby completely misses The Donald's utter lack of scientific comprehension, and that of and his accomplices. However, this book is a primer on how to recognize when phony science is being employed for some political purpose, and that is a skill which is imperative for every citizen to master in order to avoid being led down the garden path by unscrupulous civil decision makers.

  • Erin

    Available in April 2017

    Dave Levitan explores the ways in which American politicians( majority appear to be the Republican party candidates in the last presidential campaign) have misinterpreted and misused data all in the name of Science.

    The book is divided into twelve chap

    Available in April 2017

    Dave Levitan explores the ways in which American politicians( majority appear to be the Republican party candidates in the last presidential campaign) have misinterpreted and misused data all in the name of Science.

    The book is divided into twelve chapters:

    1) The Oversimplification

    2)The Cherry Pick

    3)The Butter-up and Undercut

    4)The Demonizer

    5)The Blame the Blogger

    6)The Ridicule and Dismiss

    7) The Literal Nitpick

    8) The Credit Snatch

    9) The Certain Uncertainty

    10) The Blind Eye to Follow up

    11) The Lost in Translation

    12) The Straight Up Fabrication

    Conclusion The Conspicuous Silence

    I must confess that reading a print copy of the text would have been thoroughly more enjoyable because many of the images didn't fit within the size of my e-reader. But I digress.

    I liked the way in which the author approaches the topic and repeatedly emphasizes the importance of equipping ourselves with the proper information. A timely reminder in 2017. Issues discussed in the book include: climate change, global warming, vaccinations, epidemics, and abortion.

    Thanks to NetGalley for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. Quotes are subject to change for final copy.

  • Ben

    This should be required reading for high school and college students!

  • Melora

    Sigh. Hard not to appreciate the relevance of this when the president is currently threatening to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. Why not, after all, since, as he's explained, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

    I enjoyed Levitan's book, but it has the same problem most books of this sort do, which is that he's preaching to the choir. As Levitin admits in his introduction, though he includes a

    Sigh. Hard not to appreciate the relevance of this when the president is currently threatening to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. Why not, after all, since, as he's explained, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

    I enjoyed Levitan's book, but it has the same problem most books of this sort do, which is that he's preaching to the choir. As Levitin admits in his introduction, though he includes a few inaccurate scientific claims from left-leaning politicians, the great majority of his examples come from the right. Senator Jim Inhofe, Senator Ted Cruz, Congressman Todd Akin, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and other Republican notables make repeat appearances, either attempting to confuse situations in which the scientific consensus is clear, or making outrageous claims masquerading as science. It seems unlikely to me that readers who believe politicians who claim that climate change is a hoax, that vaccinations cause autism, that women's bodies magically prevent conception from rape, and the other similar sorts of claims Levitan offers as examples will pick this up and give it a thoughtful read. I appreciated his breakdown of the various ways these deceptions are proffered, and there were some useful tips on spotting rhetorical tricks used to hide certain sorts of bamboozlements, but I didn't receive any stunning insights. Still, despite my having listened to dishonest politicians for over fifty years now (or, I

    have, if my parents hadn't chucked out the television during my early years due to their dismay at what the politicians had wrought), the internet does offer new opportunities for trickery, political and otherwise, and reminders to be watchful and skeptical of hucksters who preface their scientific pronouncements with the phrase “I'm not a scientist but...” are always useful.

    As Levitan reminds us with examples such as acid rain and AIDs during the Reagan years, often the weight of evidence, the persistence of scientists, and the pressure from citizens who see through the flimflam is eventually enough to win the day for choices made on the basis of fact rather than opportunism and ignorance. I'm clinging to that hope, along with the fantasy that Mr.”I'm like, a really smart person” will chose to

    smart and listen to the 97% consensus (according to climate.nasa.gov, until the administration removes the information) of climate scientists on climate change and

    pull the U.S. out of the Paris treaty and the serious business of saving the planet.

  • Atila Iamarino

    Um livro bastante interessante sobre como políticos desprezam, mal tratam ou distorcem ciência para passar a agenda política. Geralmente começando com a frase "Não sou cientista, mas..."

    Os exemplos são principalmente americanos, pois o autor vai pegando pronunciamentos de políticos para mostrar o que cometeram naquela fala. Mesmo assim, são dicas bem proveitosas de quais sinais indicam a atrocidade que vem a seguir. A maior delas, que mais me impressionou, foi a "butter and undercut" ou assopra

    Um livro bastante interessante sobre como políticos desprezam, mal tratam ou distorcem ciência para passar a agenda política. Geralmente começando com a frase "Não sou cientista, mas..."

    Os exemplos são principalmente americanos, pois o autor vai pegando pronunciamentos de políticos para mostrar o que cometeram naquela fala. Mesmo assim, são dicas bem proveitosas de quais sinais indicam a atrocidade que vem a seguir. A maior delas, que mais me impressionou, foi a "butter and undercut" ou assopra e bate, onde o político se pronuncia a favor de uma agência ou pesquisa, mas pelas costas enfia a faca no orçamento. Elogiar a pesquisa espacial da NASA, por exemplo, para depois cortar o financiamento de pesquisa atmosférica e em torno de mudanças climáticas.

  • Kelly Newton

    No surprises. But still irritating to read the quotes. Probably a bad time to read this anyway, as scientific illiteracy is so obviously prevalent-and celebrated- in our culture. Ugh. So disappointed with humans right now.

  • Lissa

    If you'd told me ten years ago that we'd have a president who constantly spewed forth lies and a large portion of the country didn't care enough to even fact check, but even if the facts PROVED that they were lies were still content to swallow the swill and mutter ridiculous shit about "alternate facts" and "fake news," I would have laughed. And yet here we are. Welcome to America 2.0: The Dumbing Down is Complete.

    What a time to be alive.

    Do you remember a time when America actually prided itsel

    If you'd told me ten years ago that we'd have a president who constantly spewed forth lies and a large portion of the country didn't care enough to even fact check, but even if the facts PROVED that they were lies were still content to swallow the swill and mutter ridiculous shit about "alternate facts" and "fake news," I would have laughed. And yet here we are. Welcome to America 2.0: The Dumbing Down is Complete.

    What a time to be alive.

    Do you remember a time when America actually prided itself on being smart and technologically advanced? I...don't, really, because by the time I was aware of such things, it was already fading from the public consciousness. But I feel like this really was the case once. Look at how eager we were, as a country, to become the first to land on the moon. Look at the vibrant space program we built. Look at the numerous technological advances we offered to the world.

    Those days are coming to a close now. It apparently is a point of pride to be stupid and obedient, at least for a large portion of the country. It's a race to the bottom, and quite honestly, it's HILARIOUS to me that these same people like to spout about the "forefathers" when they literally know nothing ABOUT anything except what their chosen politicians and "leaders" tell them. (Every time someone bitches about how it's unAmerican to protest or riot, I really, really, REALLY want to mention the Boston Tea Party. Sometimes I do, but I usually only get a blank look because people just say shit without any factual evidence and we're just supposed to accept that now, apparently.)

    Anyway, I digress.

    Basically, this book calls out the politicians who lie (the author rarely calls them lies, because that infers intent to deceive, but I feel no such restraint - let's be honest, politicians intend to deceive) and points out how they twist, dismiss, or mangle facts to make themselves look "right." And it doesn't really matter, because much of their constituency will believe every word they say, because who needs things like facts and quotes and studies when you can just watch people on television tell you what to think and believe? It's so much EASIER to just passively accept what you're told instead of, oh I don't know, thinking critically.

    Ahem.

    I debated about giving this book three or four stars. I ended up with four, just because this message needs to get out there so badly. Politicians lie! From both sides of the aisle, although more science-based lies come from the conservatives (surprise, surprise), especially when it comes to such topics as climate change, homosexuality, and marijuana being a big bad evil drug on the level of heroin and meth.

    And the author does do a good job of showing how politicians use various ways to lie. But there's no...shall I say, call to arms at the end of the book. There's no plan on how to fight back against the lies, except to say "now you know how they lie, so challenge their lies." I really would have liked a call for higher educational standards in the United States, because there has been such an effort (especially by conservative areas) to teach outlandish shit like the bible as being fact (lololol) while ignoring things of actual importance like science and math. There's a reason why the United States scores in STEM-related subjects are abysmal.

    I'd recommend the book, but I feel like it needed to go further than it did. It's still a sobering view of the sorry state of American politics and the educational system.

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