The Magazine

Ignoble Experiment

This is what happens when dogma distorts science.

Mar 18, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 26 • By MICHAEL ROSEN
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Science Left Behind also includes an instructive chapter documenting the steady decline of science journalism, which is Campbell’s area of expertise. Mainstream science writing, the authors contend, has shifted “toward opinion and even political activism,” and has been “overrun by partisan interests who do not love science as much as they hate their political opponents.” (One recent study of British science journalism found that only 12 percent of stories were generated by actual reporting, not press releases.) The authors also take obligatory, yet deadly accurate, potshots at Al Gore, prophet of the global warming catastrophe that always lies just around the corner; at John Holdren, President Obama’s science czar, who once collaborated with the discredited Paul Ehrlich of Population Bomb fame; and at the lunatics of PETA who oppose, sometimes violently, lifesaving animal research. 

Ultimately, Berezow and Campbell conclude, it appears that “environmentalists believe any technological progress at all .  .  . is at odds with protecting the environment.” But they roundly reject this “false choice,” arguing instead that “we must choose both, for we have no other ethical option.” Scientific innovation aims to extend and enhance life on Earth—a physical, cultural, and moral imperative for all of humanity, regardless of ideology, faith, or socioeconomic status.

To be sure, Science Left Behind occasionally suffers from some of the flaws it attributes to its subjects. While the authors often meticulously document their assertions with citations to various studies—the endnotes alone span some 30 pages—they sometimes fail to present, in the text, figures or other evidence supporting their assertions, such as when they criticize the wasteful cash-for-clunkers program without rigorously quantifying the waste. They might also have expanded their discussions of other controversial issues at the intersection of science and public policy, such as fracking and IQ tests.  

Of course, Berezow and Campbell could address these subjects in a sequel as incisive and well-written as this, their first book. Given the increasing stridency with which progressives decry scientific progress, they may need to.

Michael Rosen is a lawyer and writer in San Diego.