Friday, December 30, 2011

Fool Me Twice, by Shawn Lawrence Otto.

Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, by Shawn Lawrence Otto.  Rodale Books, 2011.  384 pp.  978-1605292175.

... in which we explore the ways that politicians and other public figures have led an attack on science in America, leading to the policy problems encountered today.

This review is of a digital copy provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley.

In Fool Me Twice, Shawn Lawrence Otto discusses the divide between politics and science present in America today.  Pointing out that we are living in an increasingly scientifically complex world, Otto writes about the implications of having a Congress where less than 2% of the members have a background in a science field.  He also talks about how the media has done very little to alleviate this issue, by constantly dodging scientific topics or dumbing them down to a point where they aren't really science any more.  
This was a really depressing read, but also an important book.  I was a little bit biased going into the book, as I happen to think that the American way of ignoring science is one of the worst things that we could do.  However, I think that even people who aren't that interested in or passionate about this topic can and should read this book.  Otto has a really compelling writing style, making it accessible to everyone, and the book was organized well enough that the various topics blended into each other well.  He does a good job of not pulling his punches when discussing specific people or groups and their transgressions against science, but he does his criticism in a way that shouldn't offend most people.  That's a really important feature in a book like this; it'll help get the book to a wider audience.

I really enjoyed the range of topics in the book.  The first couple of chapters of the book felt a little repetitive to me, but after I really got into, the book started to flow more and I enjoyed it a great deal.  He covers lots of topics, from Congress and climate change to the weak state of science in the American classroom.  Otto also covers some topics from a more historical perspective, rather than just focusing on the modern state of things.  I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the tragedy of the commons, as I found it to be really interesting both from a historical perspective and as a discussion on where things are heading for the future.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone in the United States, particularly if you plan on voting in the 2012 main election or any of the primaries (why wouldn't you vote?).  Despite its somewhat slow start, the book is extremely important and very engaging for readers of all backgrounds.

5/5 stars

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