Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies

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FT Press, Jan 13, 2009 - Education - 224 pages
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“Comprehensive, readable, and replete with current, useful examples, this book provides a much-needed explanation of how to be a critical consumer of the scientific claims we encounter in our everyday lives.”

—April Cordero Maskiewicz, Department of Biology, Point Loma Nazarene University

 

“Seethaler’s book helps the reader look inside the workings of science and gain a deeper understanding of the pathway that is followed by a scientific finding—from its beginnings in a research lab to its appearance on the nightly news.”

—Jim Slotta, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

 

“How I wish science was taught this way! Seethaler builds skills for critical thinking and evaluation. The book is rich with examples that not only illustrate her points beautifully, they also make it very interesting and fun to read.”

—Julia R. Brown, Director, Targacept, Inc.

 

Don’t Get Hoodwinked! Make Sense of Health and Science News...and Make Smarter Decisions!

 

Every day, there’s a new scientific or health controversy. And every day, it seems as if there’s a new study that contradicts what you heard yesterday. What’s really going on? Who’s telling the truth? Who’s faking it? What do scientists actually know–and what don’t they know? This book will help you cut through the confusion and make sense of it all–even if you’ve never taken a science class! Leading science educator and journalist Dr. Sherry Seethaler reveals how science and health research really work...how to put scientific claims in context and understand the real tradeoffs involved...tell quality research from junk science...discover when someone’s deliberately trying to fool you...and find more information you can trust!  Nobody knows what new controversy will erupt tomorrow. But one thing’s for certain: With this book, you’ll know how to figure out the real deal–and make smarter decisions for yourself and your family!

 

Watch the news, and you’ll be overwhelmed by snippets of badly presented science: information that’s incomplete, confusing, contradictory, out-of-context, wrong, or flat-out dishonest. Defend yourself! Dr. Sherry Seethaler gives you a powerful arsenal of tools for making sense of science. You’ll learn how to think more sensibly about everything from mad cow disease to global warming—and how to make better science-related decisions in both your personal life and as a citizen.

 

You’ll begin by understanding how science really works and progresses, and why scientists sometimes disagree. Seethaler helps you assess the possible biases of those who make scientific claims in the media, and place scientific issues in appropriate context, so you can intelligently assess tradeoffs. You’ll learn how to determine whether a new study is really meaningful; uncover the difference between cause and coincidence; figure out which statistics mean something, and which don’t.

 

Seethaler reveals the tricks self-interested players use to mislead and confuse you, and points you to sources of information you can actually rely upon. Her many examples range from genetic engineering of crops to drug treatments for depression...but the techniques she teaches you will be invaluable in understanding any scientific controversy, in any area of science or health.

 

^   Potions, plots, and personalities: How science progresses, and why scientists sometimes disagree

^   Is it “cause” or merely coincidence? How to tell compelling evidence from a “good story”

^   There are always tradeoffs: How to put science and health claims in context, and understand their real implications

^   All the tricks experts use to fool you, exposed! How to recognize lies, “truthiness,” or pseudo-expertise

 

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Contents

Whos who? identify those who hold stake in an issue and what their positions are
29
Decisions decisions elucidate all the pros and cons of a decision
43
Compare and contrast place alternatives in an appropriate context to evaluate tradeoffs
59
What happens if? distinguish between cause and coincidence
73
Specific or general recognize how broadly the conclusions from a study may be applied
89
Fun figures see through the number jumble
99
Societys say discern the relationships between science and policy
113
All the tricks in the book get past the ploys designed to simply bypass logic
139
Fitting the pieces together know how to seek information to gain a balanced perspective
161
Conclusion twenty essential applications of the tools
177
Acknowledgments
183
About the Author
184
Index
185
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Sherry Seethaler, a science writer and educator at the University of California, San Diego, works with scientists to explain their discoveries to the public. She also writes a column for the San Diego Union-Tribune answering readers’ questions about science. Seethaler holds an M.S. and Master of Philosophy in biology from Yale, and a Ph.D. in science and math education from UC Berkeley.

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