Monday, March 12, 2007

The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy, and the New Fundamentalism

Book Description from the publisher: Our daily news bulletins bring us tales of the wonder of science, from Mars rovers and intelligent robots to developments in cancer treatment and successful separations of conjoined twins, and yet we are also aware of the threats posed by science: 'Frankenstein' foods, chemical pollution, drug-resistant illnesses, and potentially-dangerous mobile phones. In The March of Unreason, Dick Taverne takes as his starting point his concern that irrationality is on the rise in Western society, and argues that public opinion is increasingly dominated by unreflecting prejudice and an unwillingness to engage with factual evidence. Experts no longer command respect, and polls show that the only scientists the public seem to trust are those who work for environmental pressure groups. When the Chief Government Medical Officer assured the British public that the MMR vaccine was safe, for example, parents' fears seemed to be intensified rather than allayed: this debate continues today, and many experts fear that children's health is being put at risk by a decline in vaccinations. In this compelling and timely examination of science and society, Taverne discusses topics such as genetically modified crops and foods, organic farming, the MMR vaccine, environmentalism, the precautionary principle, and the new anti-capitalist and anti-globalization movements. He argues that the rejection of science nurtures a culture of suspicion, distrust and cynicism, and leads to dogmatic assertion and intolerance. Science, with all the benefits it brings, is the key to a civilized and democratic society: it offers the most hopeful future for mankind.

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