This book is not about running, but it is very relevant to the topic of this blog. I buy and read a lot of books, often related to putting what I have an interest in into some wider context (for example, see this review on The Story of the Human Body). This new book from Donald Prothero, Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future is no exception. My interest in ‘science’ in the context of this blog is that there is so much propaganda and rhetoric and strongly help opposing opinions that we need to default to science to resolve the issues. Even when “science” is used in ‘running’, I often rile against the misuse, misunderstanding, misquoting and misinterpretation of the science.
With the exception of obvious spam I am finding that I am not approving more and more comments on posts on this blog. This is not because I want to censor those who disagree with me (almost all of them are approved), but there is an increasing number of comments that say things like, and I paraphrase: “all this bullshit research“. If comments say something like that, then assume that the comment is not going to get approved, mainly because I can’t be bothered with comments like that. If that is the level that those who want to comment want to conduct this discourse at, then you can go and play somewhere else. On the way there, its probably a good idea that you read this book. The problem is that those who really need to read this book are probably not the ones that are going to read it and if they do read it, they probably don’t realize that the book is talking about them! That is a great shame.
While the issues surrounding ‘running’ are not serious or life threatening like some of the topics covered in this book such as infectious diseases or threaten our future such as climate change, the issues raised around the public discourse of science are just as applicable to what goes on around ‘running‘. The book bemoans how so many try to prevent scientific reality from hampering their agendas (sound familiar?). The book weaves together many common threads that are used in science denialism (eg AIDS/HIV; creationism; climate change; vaccination). The science deniers all use the same tactics and we certainly see those in the discourse surrounding ‘running‘, which what makes this book such a valuable read to put all that into the wider context.
The author uses many examples to illustrate the central thesis of the book. The final chapter brings it all together and tries to explain how we arrived in the position that we are in today. The author bemoans the role of the media in this, especially the emergence of what I often refer to as the “crankosphere blogosphere” and the lack of scientific critical appraisal skills by the public in general. The lack of scientific literacy is also discussed and one can’t help but wonder what hope there is when the teaching and understanding of science is so low. For example, only 53% of adults in one survey knew how long it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun and “there are a shockingly large number of adults who do not know which is larger, an electron or an atom.”
As I mentioned in my review of Chi Marathon, I like to check the one-star reviews at Amazon.com and especially how the fan boys respond to those one-star reviews, as these responses are normally very telling. For this book, there are no one-star reviews!
If you really care about our future, then this book is worth reading. I will finish with a quote from the book:
Whether we take the path of science and rationality or superstition and denial will determine whether we survive another century on this planet.
As always, I go where the evidence takes me until convinced otherwise.