Making Sense of Science: Separating Substance from Spin

Making Sense of Science: Separating Substance from Spin

by Cornelia Dean


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A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

Most of us learn about science from media coverage, and anyone seeking factual information on climate change, vaccine safety, genetically modified foods, or the dangers of peanut allergies has to sift through an avalanche of bogus assertions, misinformation, and carefully packaged spin. Cornelia Dean draws on thirty years of experience as a science reporter at the New York Times to expose the tricks that handicap readers with little background in science. She reveals how activists, business spokespersons, religious leaders, and talk show hosts influence the way science is reported and describes the conflicts of interest that color research. At a time when facts are under daily assault, Making Sense of Science seeks to equip nonscientists with a set of critical tools to evaluate the claims and controversies that shape our lives.

Making Sense of Science explains how to decide who is an expert, how to understand data, what you need to do to read science and figure out whether someone is lying to you… If science leaves you with a headache trying to figure out what’s true, what it all means and who to trust, Dean’s book is a great place to start.”
Casper Star-Tribune

“Fascinating… Its mission is to help nonscientists evaluate scientific claims, with much attention paid to studies related to health.”
Seattle Times

“This engaging book offers non-scientists the tools to connect with and evaluate science, and for scientists it is a timely call to action for effective communication.”
Times Higher Education

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674237803
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/04/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 1,053,175
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Cornelia Dean is a science writer for the New York Times and Writer-in-Residence at Brown University.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

1 We the People 7

What We Know, and What We Don't Know 7

The Belief Engine 13

Thinking about Risk 29

2 The Research Enterprise 57

What Is Science? 57

How Science Knows What It Knows 65

Models 76

A Jerry of Peers 88

3 Things Go Wrong 95

Misconduct 95

Science in Court 103

Researchers and Journalists 112

4 The Universal Solvent 128

A Matter of Money 128

Selling Health 141

What's for Supper? 162

5 Political Science 182

Constituency of Ignorance 182

The Political Environment 193

Taking Things on Faith 206

Conclusion 215

Appendix: Trustworthy, Untrustworthy, or Irrelevant? 225

Notes 247

Further Reading 265

Acknowledgments 269

Index 271

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