Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science” as Want to Read:
Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  127 reviews
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
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Not a Scientist, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Not a Scientist

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  503 ratings  ·  127 reviews

Sort order
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
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
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)
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-ish
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
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Available in April 2017

Science doesn't sit by itself, alone in a lab coat, pondering the mysteries of the universe with little outside influence or consequence. When politicians mistake scientific issues, it can have ripples in our everyday lives.

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
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
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science by Dave Levitan

“Not a Scientist” is an entertaining expose of deception used by politicians to undermine science that goes against their agenda. Journalist and author, Dave Levitan takes the readers on a journey of underhanded politicians who misrepresent science for personal gain. The author explores a variety of devious tactics and helps the reader identify them. This enjoyable 267-page book includes the followi
Sarah Clement
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was okay, at least what there was of it. But there wasn't enough of it, nor enough substance. The book was essentially an explanation of the various types of tactics politicians use in trying to use - yet abuse - "science-y" concepts to their advantage. The premise is that old conservative political trick...the "I am not a scientist, but I am about to pretend to be one and to use scientific ignorance to my political advantage." Levitan picks apart fact more than the subtle subtext sitt ...more
Robert Hausladen
Mar 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
A read disappointment. Lack of clear critical thinking about what science can and cannot do and about the role of politics in society.
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not a Scientist is a book that sorts the types of errors that politicians usually make with regards to science (credit snatching, blaming the blogger, butter up and undercut, etcetera), explains how to spot them, and offers advice on how to fact check information found in each of the error types. Each type of error has its own chapter, and Not a Scientist is pretty much built on the examples that make up the bulk of each chapter. There is also general information about the importance of science ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This should be required reading for high school and college students!
Kelly Newton
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, netgalley, science
The publication timing of this book is extremely appropriate. Not just because of our current political climate, but also literally -- debuting in April, it's something that I would want to assign as summer reading for high school and college students. While the political overtones may make it a difficult sell in that context (though it can't be denied that the bulk of scientific misinformation in media is heavily weighted towards one side of the aisle), nonetheless this is a fast, accessible re ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
I am a scientist (but not Republican, or American), and I really wanted to like this book, but I am ultimately disappointed. The author fights a lot of good fights, but for me loses his credibility with his overwhelmingly partisan analysis - which is presented as objectivity.

The book ends up reading as a list of the author's bêtes noires when it comes to Republican causes which are in opposition to or unsupported by scientific consensus. And for the most part, the author is bang on. But the fact
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I laughed, I groaned. I laughed, I groaned. That's my best summary of my experience reading this book. It was entirely enjoyable except when I considered the fact that these men (and a few women) direct our national scientific policy. Levitan's method of dividing the different styles of dissing and mis-explaining science was very well conceived. It is also a call to action: Don't be gullible, be informed, America!
David Kent
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I tag this is an important book that everyone should read, while recognizing that the people who need it most will refuse to do so. The main title is derived from the oft-heard refrain from Republican politicians in the year or so leading up to the recent presidential campaign: "I am not a scientist." Invariably this meaningless throwaway line was followed by some statement that was both false and already refuted by the science.

Each chapter of the book introduces one of a series of what the aut
William Schram
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not A Scientist is a brilliant and incisive look into how politicians misunderstand Science and attempt to undercut it. Now I understand, thinking is hard. This is true especially if you have a number of people to command and a large area to “govern.” Science is something that requires thought, and clearly, it isn’t for everyone. However, given the cosmopolitan nature of our world, in general, it would be in our best interests to understand science in all of its facets. The unfortunate thing is ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a scientist is: "A person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences." Clearly then, the vast majority of our politicians are not scientists. However, as Dave Levitan explains, many politicians follow their "not being a scientist" statement by misusing, inventing, distorting, and outright lying about scientific topics in order to push their particular political agenda.

I doubt that this will come as a surprise to
Richard Mactough
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read and calls politicians out on their bullshit when it comes to science. Each chapter focuses on a particular strategy used by politicians on various scientific issues. It is contemporary involving abortion, climate change, and vaccines.
Levitan writes the book with a fitting humor of sarcasm. He mentions their ties to lobbyist preventing scientist from doing their jobs.
He fact checks claims from 2016 presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Carly Fiona, and Ben Carson. He uses their
A fairly short summary of the ways in which politicians misuse and abuse science in order to pursue an agenda. The book is fairly clear and concise and does a good job of outlining common ways that politicians lie (a term he doesn't use because intentions are hard to know) about science. The author describes the book as a tool to use which I think is fair. It's less of an analysis and more of a list in the hopes that people will be fooled less often by these techniques.
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not a bad book, but too much politics for my liking. He does a very thorough job at identifying various logical mistakes politicians (or people) make when talking about science.
Todd Martin
“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist.”
- Senator Marco Rubio (republican) trying to the answer the question “How old do you think the Earth is?” and failing miserably

Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it
"Not a Scientist" evaluates different ways politicians distort or otherwise spin scientific findings to agree with their specific agenda. The author does a good job giving examples of specific times the different techniques were used, and how it can effect the debate going forward, as well as how it influences the views of other people.

I thought it was interesting, though, to see the author use a couple of the same techniques in how he presented the information. Not to distort the science, but t
Mar 31, 2017 added it
Any time I hear "I'm not a __(your expert here)___ but," I stop listening.

I'm always reminded of Robert Young's, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV." I was dubious at 14, and I'm completely dismissive at 67.

Though this book is well-intended, I fear it's a classic preaching/choir dynamic.

Paula  Cabezas
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was a nice try. Unluckily it fell short at portraying the complex relationship between politicians and science/scientists.

At first the book attempted to do a rhetorical analysis of how politicians use (and mangle) science but it shifted quickly into being a mere FAQ section or teaching book for people who still think vaccines cause autisms, completely missing the mark as I doubt many of those people would even bother to pick this book up.

The author complete missed the opportunity of t
Mar 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Politicians do not tell the truth. That is not a revelation. But in “Not a Scientist” Dave Levitan breaks down the tells for spotting when a politician is distorting science for political gain.

Levitan coins terms for common techniques for undermining science like “The Cherry Pick,” The Blame the Blogger” and the “Blind Eye to the Follow-up.” Then, he works to drill these terms into your head by placing them in ALL CAPS each time they’re referenced. The end goal is to make the reader more scienti
Jun 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
TL;DR: Good premise, insufferable book, and ultimately offers nothing new. The author engages in name-calling, and the exact same fallacies he claims to call out. There are far better books.

Any descriptions of non-glamorous scientific procedures - calibrations, datasets, etc. - are interesting. However, the book manages to be somehow both avuncular and smug, making me understand why some people can’t stand scientists.

The vast majority of his examples are from Republicans (which is acknowledges
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Science can be complicated and difficult to explain and understand. And the very nature of science - in how it continues to progress and conclusions updates as new data becomes available - lends itself to being misunderstood and misused by politicians.

Not a Scientist is a timely and needed book to help the public wade through political rhetoric and hold politicians accountable to honest and appropriate use of science. In its twelve chapters and a bonus thirteenth, Dave Levitan provides thirteen
Brian Palmer
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017
A quick read that's trying give a lot of examples of "how politicians mistake, misrepresent, and utterly mangle science;" unfortunately, that premise doesn't give much of a narrative flow. Each chapter is set up around a different technique (e.g., cherry-picking data, taking credit for delayed effects, or even fabricating evidence), typically picking recent examples of politicians. Most of the science that the book concerns itself with is climate change and medicine.

The book isn't overtly parti
John Findlay
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I, myself, am a scientist, and have felt for a long time that books like this are really needed. It is not a fun read, but a truly informative read. For me, it is extremely frustrating to hear politicians misconstrue science in order to achieve their political objectives. It is easy to construct misleading science sound-bytes that are time consuming and complicated to refute. Science is not simple, and accurate interpretations of scientific evidence takes time, patience, and a willingness to exa ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Rare: Portraits of America's Endangered Species
  • The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels
  • And Then You're Dead: What Really Happens If You Get Swallowed by a Whale, Are Shot from a Cannon, or Go Barreling Over Niagara
  • Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything
  • Algeria Is Beautiful Like America
  • Utopia Is Creepy: And Other Provocations
  • A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human
  • Where Did I Leave My Glasses?: The What, When, and Why of Normal Memory Loss
  • A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War
  • 8
  • Monkeys, Myths, and Molecules: Separating Fact from Fiction, and the Science of Everyday Life
  • Misunderstood: A Book About Rats
  • The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It
  • Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees
  • The Best American Infographics 2013
  • The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality
  • Famous Players (A Treasury of XXth Century Murder)
  • The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics
“So anyone who says that we shouldn’t act on climate change because of uncertainty is really inviting you to ride towards a brick wall at 80 km/h because it might not hurt. [Do] you feel lucky?2” 0 likes
“That’s where the OVERSIMPLIFICATION tends to break down. When you start to ask for and examine the evidence behind a scientific claim, you often see that science doesn’t quite cooperate with political sound bites.” 0 likes
More quotes…