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Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality.

DENYING SCIENCE: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality by John Grant. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2011. 374 pages, with index. Hardcover; $16.50. ISBN: 9781616143992.

Denying Science chronicles the histories of science-related topics for which the consensus opinion of mainstream science has not been accepted. Some examples include the science related to silicone breast implants, forensic science, immunizations, AIDS, tobacco, evolution, and global climate change. Three nonscientific causes for the denial of science are proposed: religion, politics, and greed. Scientific methods commonly used to deny the science are also critiqued.

John Grant is the pen name of Paul Barnett, an accomplished author of both fiction and nonfiction. Barnett, who has also published under the name of Eve Devereux, was born in the UK in 1949, and has lived in the US since 1999. His work in the area of science-fiction fantasy has earned him two Hugo awards. His nonfiction writing has involved projects chronicling science fiction fantasy and animation, as well as two books closely related to this title: Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science (2007) and Bogus Science: Or, Some People Really Believe These Things (2009).

For each denial of science the author critiques the reasoning offered by the skeptics. Except for a stated rejection of science based on religion, the science skeptics propose that they are using scientific methods to develop arguments supporting their denial. Grant does an excellent job of discrediting these methods by showing how skeptics often knowingly reference fraudulent or retracted scientific papers found in credible scientific journals, provide references to "scientific" papers which are actually propaganda literature funded by a biased source for the purpose of appearing to be a credible scientific source, and appeal to scientific authorities who are not credible in their fields.

A segment of the book, familiar to ASA readers, is a discussion of methods used by young earth creationists such as Ken Ham and Duane Gish to deny a mainstream scientific understanding of origins. Grant moves from a discussion of young earth creationism to the more recent intelligent design (ID) movement by examining the work of ID proponents Michael Behe and Bill Dembski. Grant makes the case that ID proponents and the young earth creationists make use of similarly flawed methodologies and that both deny the science due to theological motivations rather than credible scientific concerns.

Grant also writes about problems in the legal system. One problem occurs when politicians, who try to appear tough on crime, question the results of forensic science investigations. This denial has led to the probable wrongful execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in Texas. A second legal problem involves the ability of the science deniers to use libel laws in their defense, limiting the ability of mainstream scientists to publicly demonstrate the flaws in the deniers' arguments.

Grant attributes the cause for climate change denial to the greed of the fossil fuel industry, primarily ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers. Comparisons are made between the methods used by the fossil fuel industry to deny the ill effects of an increase in atmospheric CO2 on the climate, and the methods used by the tobacco industry to deny the ill effects of tobacco. Grant devotes a considerable amount of the book to profiling corporations, think tanks, scientists and politicians, whom he includes among the science deniers.

Grant's previous writing experience is on display in this well-referenced book, written with a flowing, sarcastic, and witty narrative. Grant is an excellent storyteller describing how fraudulent and flawed scientific references come to be used to deny the mainstream science consensus. However, the sarcastic chapter titles are not often indicative of the chapter's content, and the sarcastic wit sometimes becomes a rant that detracts from Grant's credibility.

This book is recommended for those looking for resources in public science policy and for information on public personalities involved in denying mainstream science, in particular the issue of global warming. References to deficiencies of the forensic science relied upon by the legal system and the innocence project are also helpful.

Reviewed by Gary DeBoer, Professor of Chemistry, LeTourneau University, Longview, TX 75607-7001.
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Author:DeBoer, Gary
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2012
Words:684
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