Christina Hoff Sommers has a lot of important stuff to say about gender politics, and much of it comes through in this little book. She proves that, cChristina Hoff Sommers has a lot of important stuff to say about gender politics, and much of it comes through in this little book. She proves that, contrary to the impression you'd get in most Gender Studies programs, you don't need to advocate for some kind of quasi-Marxist revolution in order to address women's issues in the name of Feminism. She rightly calls out "establishment" Feminists for their undue hostility towards men, their denial of the opportunities that American women enjoy, and their consistent use of egregiously false claims to get women riled up about (fictional or grossly exaggerated) injustices. Perhaps most importantly, she urged Feminists in the West to devote more attention to the women around in the world who need help much more urgently than Sandra Fluke.
I only wish that she had gone into more detail. If she wants to persuade college students that their social science classes are mis-educating them, she has been show them overwhelming evidence. Saying that studies show that the wage gap between men and women has little if anything to do with sexist discrimination and that Feminist textbooks drastically overstate the incidence of domestic violence is a fine start. But it's not enough. If you read Sommers' Who Stole Feminism?, you'll see plenty more where that came from. You can also watch a spirited lecture she gave on the topic of "Ms. Information" here:
Reading Chaos will teach you that the world is neat and messy, predictable and unpredictable. The way you see it depends on how you look at it. Fo
Reading Chaos will teach you that the world is neat and messy, predictable and unpredictable. The way you see it depends on how you look at it. For instance, the discussion of fractals will show you that there can be infinite space within a finite area. So, while you know when you reach into a box of chocolates that you're going to get chocolate, you still have no idea exactly what you're going to get: There is infinite "space" for possibilities within the finite categorical "area" of chocolates, not to mention the finite volume of the box.
Like Gleick's more recent book, The Information, Chaos offers as much insight into how scientific theories develop as insight into the theories themselves. My favorite moments in the book are the ones when Gleick discusses the personal and intellectual challenges faced by scientists who struggled to find meaningful ideas to express about phenomena that had been dismissed by generations of brilliant minds as meaningless "noise."
My only criticism is that the book is longer than it needed to be. As fascinating as the material is (most of it, anyway), the typical reader will get tired of it when he or she still has 80 pages left to go....more
This is an extremely important book and its authors are heros for writing it.
Its major thesis is that indoor spraying of DDT is safe, environmentally
This is an extremely important book and its authors are heros for writing it.
Its major thesis is that indoor spraying of DDT is safe, environmentally friendly, and by far the most effective method that exists for fighting malaria. Frightening yet fallacious myths about DDT have caused it to be terribly underused worldwide, leaving billions of people vulnerably to malaria, and allowing millions of people to die agonizing deaths from that easily preventable disease.
Perhaps the most important scientific point the book makes is that DDT's effectiveness at preventing malaria is NOT seriously undermined by mosquito's evolution of resistance to DDT. This is the case for two reasons:
1) Mosquitos have only been known to develop resistance to DDT's toxicity . There has never been a documented case of a mosquito population developing resistance to DDT's repellence. So, even if DDT gradually becomes less effective at killing mosquitos, it does not become less effective at preventing them from entering people's homes. And that repellant action - i.e. repelling mosquitos away from people's homes - is what makes DDT so effective at preventing malaria, regardless of whether or not mosquitos are resistant to DDT's toxicity.
2) The rate at which mosquitos develop resistance to DDT's toxicity is much higher in instances where DDT is sprayed as an agricultural pesticide than in instances where it is used for malaria control (because the former involves spraying mosquito's breeding areas, while the latter does not). So, if you fail to distinguish between the two very different ways in which DDT has been used, you might think that the use of DDT generally causes rapid evolution of resistance. But, in fact, the use of DDT specifically for malaria control does not cause mosquitos to rapidly evolve resistance.
Putting the two reasons together, we can see that resistance to DDT actually evolves much slower than most people realize in places where DDT is used to fight malaria, and, more importantly, the resistance that does evolve is only a resistance to DDT's toxicity, not its repellence, which is actually DDT's primary mode of action.
The environmental and health impacts of DDT are also extensively addressed. The upshot is that DDT has never been compellingly shown to significantly increase people's risk of any illness, even when people are exposed to DDT at far higher levels than indoor spraying exposes them to. DDT, even when sprayed heavily over crops, has never done much harm to any bird species, or ecosystems more generally. When sprayed indoors, DDT has virtually no ecological effects at all . In recent years, even the World Health Organization has come to accept these positions, saying that "Extensive research and testing has since demonstrated that well-managed indoor residual spraying programmes using DDT pose no harm to wildlife or to humans." (see http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/r...)
The discussion of DDT's political history can be rather difficult to fully understand if you don't approach the text with much knowledge of how international politics works. For instance, you may find yourself wondering what tangible consequences result from a UN assembly passing a resolution calling for DDT to be used only as a last resort. Nonetheless, it's easy to grasp the overall thrust of the political history even if you don't know much about those kinds of politics. Basically, environmental activists took over, bullied, or egregiously misinformed various governmental and nongovernmental organizations that were highly influential over global disease control, and got them to reduce the use of DDT to fight malaria around the world, even in places where DDT was clearly the most effective method of preventing malaria.
With malaria still rampant in many parts of the world, the stakes in the DDT debate are incredibly high. The authors' made their cognizance of this sobering reality apparent on every page of the book by meticulously presenting their case in a clear, direct manner, as if they deeply wanted their readers to understand what they were saying. This is a factually dense text, but the authors made sure to "zoom out" from time to time so that readers could grasp the general point being made even if they couldn't keep track of all the fine details.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in environmentalism, humanitarianism, and the relationship between science and public policy. ...more
I was very excited when I first found out about this book. I hoped that it would incontrovertibly debunk many of progressives' unscientific beliefs byI was very excited when I first found out about this book. I hoped that it would incontrovertibly debunk many of progressives' unscientific beliefs by rigorously explaining the evidence regarding the safety of GMOs and other agricultural technologies, the importance of vaccines and other mainstream medical technologies, the complexity of humans' innate psyche (as opposed to the "blank slate"), the pros and cons of different energy policies, etc. I was hoping to leave the book with an enriched understanding of all of these controversial issues, including the knowledge I'd need to win arguments with my progressive friends.
But those hopes were left largely unfilled. The book hardly cited any scholarly sources, and generally neglected to describe the scientific research that debunks progressive positions in a useful level of detail. Sometimes the authors even shoot and miss, like when they make childish charges of hypocrisy against Peter Singer for his rather straightforward belief that suffering is bad in humans and non-humans alike. Another shortcoming of the book was that it very rarely provided direct quotes from the people the authors were arguing against, so it was difficult to know whether or not the authors were merely burning straw men.
The book is very poorly organized. For instance, its discussion of GMOs is dispersed in isolated patches across several chapters. The discussion of sex differences is poorly contextualized, and the authors' argument about American education is unclear.
In a word, the book was lazy.
Nonetheless, it did call my attention to some interesting stuff, like:
-The fact that the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge actually contains very little wildlife. -That some environmental groups have opposed the construction of solar farms in the dessert because the farms would shrink the habitat of an endangered species of tortuous -That Al Gore actually admitted to having exaggerated the benefits of ethanol fuel as a means of promoting an energy policy that would please Iowan voters, thus boosting Gore's presidential prospects.
I'd say this book is skim-worthy, but advocates of science need to do a much better job of refuting progressive pseudoscience than this book does. ...more
The main idea of this book is rather simple: Genes do not only program the physical development of the organisms that they "live in." Rather they alsoThe main idea of this book is rather simple: Genes do not only program the physical development of the organisms that they "live in." Rather they also program stuff that occurs outside of the organism. The genes found in most bird species program the development of nests in the exact same sense that they program the development of wings. There are genes in the beaver gene-pool that program dams just like there are genes that program whiskers.
The extension of the phenotype gets more interesting, however, when we look at instances in which organisms have evolved to manipulate other organisms. In such cases, the manipulator can be said to have genes "for" the behavior of the manipulated organism that serves the manipulators reproductive interests. For instance, Venus Fly Traps possess genes for increasing the chances that flies will "choose" to fly into their traps.
Dawkins effectively argues that this perspective will help clarify biologists thinking about Darwinian adaptation. Many parts of the book will likely give non-biologists (like myself) a headache, but it's a good read for laymen nonetheless. If it's too intimidating, I'd suggest reading Dawkins' The Selfish Gene instead, which covers much of the same conceptual territory in a much less technical way....more
This is an extremely important book that ought to be read by everyone interested in the science and politics of climate change. Overall, I think SpencThis is an extremely important book that ought to be read by everyone interested in the science and politics of climate change. Overall, I think Spencer did a good job explicating key concepts and arguments. But I'd like to summarize his main ideas in such a way that I personally feel is even clearer. Of course, I will not thoroughly explain every piece of the argument, since that would require me to essentially re-write the whole book. But here is the overall thrust of the argument:
1) "Sensitivity," for the purposes at hand, refers to the extent to which small initial changes in global temperature are amplified by consequences of the initial warming. Insofar as the initial warming triggers events (e.g.the shrinkage of clouds) which themselves produce further warming (e.g. by allowing more sunlight to be absorbed by the Earth), the climate is highly sensitive. So, higher sensitivity means more drastic long-term effects of small initial temperature changes. Most importantly, higher sensitivity means that human CO2 emissions are a "bigger deal;" lower sensitivity, on the other hand, means that human CO2 emissions are a "smaller deal." Thus, overestimating sensitivity will lead scientists to overestimate how big of a deal human CO2 emission is.
2) Those climate scientists who argue that human CO2 emissions are a big deal ARE in fact overestimating sensitivity. It is this overestimation of sensitivity which is leading them to the (erroneous) conclusion that human CO2 emissions are a big deal. Spencer knows (or at least is strongly convinced) that these scientists are overestimating sensitivity for the follow reason: To determine the climate's sensitivity, scientists need to determine, based on empirical evidence, how much "positive feedback"* results from an initial "forcing." More positive feedback means higher sensitivity. Spencer has determined, via analyses of empirical evidence that he has successfully published in a top climate science journal, that the method by which most climate scientists try to measure positive feedback allows warming-due-to-forcing** to be fallaciously counted as warming-due-to-positive-feedback. Thus the total magnitude of positive feedback is erroneously believed to be greater than it actually is, which causes climate sensitivity to be overestimated, which causes human CO2 emission to seem like a bigger deal than it actually is.
3) When the mistakes made by those scientists are corrected and the analyses are conducted properly, the Earth's climate is shown to be far less sensitive than most climate scientists currently believe. Thus, human CO2 emission is not nearly as big a deal as most climate scientists say it is. In fact, in light of the properly conducted analyses, human CO2 emission is unlikely to be a big deal at all.
4) Consideration of human activity is not necessary to account for the warming trend in global temperature throughout the 20th Century. One "natural" phenomena that can likely account for most of the warming is Pacific Decadal Oscillation. There are many other natural phenomena that could plausibly have contributed to the warming trend, but scientists have not investigated those possibilities because doing so might undermine the alarmist narrative of Global Warming.
The book also addresses other important issues not described above, such as the fallaciousness of the Hockey Stick Graph, the positive effects of increased atmospheric CO2 on plant growth, the implausibility of alarmist claims about ocean acidification.
It's a pretty quick read, and I believe it makes a highly compelling argument that has the power to dramatically change people's minds.
* In reality, the magnitude of negative feedbacks are also ver important, as negative feedbacks can cancel out positive feedbacks. However, for the purposes of this argument, it is sufficient to establish that, all other things being equal, more positive feedback means higher sensitivity.
** Please don't be thrown off by my awkward use of dashes. By "warming-due-to-forcing," I simply mean increases in the Earth's temperature that are caused by forcing. By "warming-due-to-positive-feeback," I simply mean increases in the Earth's temperature that are caused by positive feedback. I only used the dashed to make the sentence structure less ambiguous.
This is an immensely captivating read that seamlessly integrates an edifying, scientifically sound intellectual history o (I won't give too much away.)
This is an immensely captivating read that seamlessly integrates an edifying, scientifically sound intellectual history of 20th Century sexology with the heartbreaking story of a child's struggle to cope with profound confusion over why "she" was the way "she" was. I highly recommend it both for those whose interest is mainly in the science of human sexuality, and for those who would be in it mainly for the drama. Colapinto does a beautiful job of dispassionately yet sensitively describing many disquieting details about the child's experience while being studied, and about the way the academic community reacted to the research.
The book has several lessons to offer contemporary scholars about: 1) the importance of independent oversight of scientific research, both for ethical and epistemological purposes; 2) the corruptive influence of ideology within scientific discourse, especially with regard to questions about the human mind, and; 3) the role of biological programming - either in genes, prenatal hormones, or, most likely, both - in the development of gendered (i.e. masculine/feminine) traits and sexual orientation, for which the book reviews a compelling amount of evidence.
This is a story that you will learn from, feel for, and think about. What more could you ask for?...more
I would have giving this book a 4 or a 5 if not for the egregiously unfair one-and-a-half page section called "The Irrelevance of Biology." Keeley rejI would have giving this book a 4 or a 5 if not for the egregiously unfair one-and-a-half page section called "The Irrelevance of Biology." Keeley rejects "biological explanation[s] of warfare" (158) without actually describing any specific biological or evolutionary perspectives on warfare. He seems to think that such perspectives generally posit that "humans (especially men) are driven by their 'biology' or 'nature' to war on one another" (157), which would imply that warfare is not a behavior activated by particular conditions, but that it is something that men automatically seek in all contexts. Yet, in reality, one of the main goals of biological/evolutionary analyses of intergroup aggression is to identify the conditions under which such aggression will be activated. Steven Pinker goes into this in his new book, "The Better Angels of our Nature," in which he explains that violence is generally "strategical" rather than "hydraulic." I also wish Keeley would have read John Tooby and Leda Cosmides' paper from 1988 called "The Evolution of War and its Cognitive Foundations" before dismissing biological analyses as irrelevant to human warfare. ...more