Chad Orzel on Unscientific America

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | July 6, 2009 1:17 pm

I’m here at NYU setting up the MEG this morning, but Chad’s got the first ScienceBlogs review of Unscientific America over at Uncertain Principles:

To my mind, though, the really important parts of the book are Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, on political and media culture, respectively. They lay out in great and depressing detail just how the culture of science fails to match up with the ways that politics and the mass media work, and how it got to be this way. The problems really are huge, and if anything, they’re getting worse, not better.

He ends with:

This is a very good book, well argued and engagingly written. There’s a lot of good stuff here, and a lot of food for thought about the history and future of science in America. I suspect I’ll be boring you all with posts about different aspects of the book for most of this week. I recommend, though, that you pick up a copy and check it out for yourself. Even if you’ve read their blog, Unscientific America presents the most complete and coherent version of their basic policy argument you’re likely to find, and it’s well worth reading.

Read the full review here and check back at Uncertain Principles for more on Unscientific America all week. I think Chris will also be responding to this post by Orzel, in which he notes that he doesn’t like the phenomenon of “un-noted endnotes,” which we use aplenty….

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Unscientific America

Comments (3)

  1. hey Sheril and Chris, just wanted to say i got your book in the mail today, plan to start reading it tomorrow

  2. Chris Mooney

    Awesome, we hope you like….

  3. Peter Beattie

    Chris, over at PZ’s blog you said that, in contrast to PZ, Chad Orzel did find some solutions to the illiteracy prolem in your book. I pointed out that he, in fact, didn’t: “I don’t have a solution … We could all use some brilliant suggestions …”. Even in his original review post, he only does some very vague hand-waving:

    They close with some suggestions regarding ways forward from here, which deserve more discussion than I can really give them in this review post. I don’t entirely agree that what they suggest will work, but their suggestions are at least plausible, and they make a reasonable case for them. And at least they’re putting something on the table to be discussed.

    Whatever he’s found, he doesn’t really seem to be able to get anything across that’s at all specific.

    I’m honestly curious, since I’m an educator and journalist dealing with science topics regularly myself, what your proposed solutions are. Would you perhaps care to share one or two sentences about that here on the blog?


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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