Not A Scientist

Not A Scientist

Did you go to the March for Science on Earth Day? Did you feel the swell of pride for all the people who lent their support in favor of science? Do you worry about the current state of science in America, especially when politicians are holding the purse strings? Then Not A Scientist, How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science by Dave Levitan is your next read. Not a Scientist is loaded with examples of real life politicians ditching the facts, disputing the evidence, and generally disrupting the scientific status quo on topics of which they know little to nothing about.

Today, there is an ever-growing divide between science and politics. Maybe it’s because the problems are too big, the solutions too expensive, the public loathe to change. There’s little disagreement in the scientific community that humanity is on the brink of critical mass, a 6th extinction, if you will, but to hear the politicians talk one would think that great controversy exists among scientists where it concerns the environment since politicians are always doing their best not just to ignore, but to call into question the most fundamental of scientific principles and method, rolling back regulations, and naysaying whenever possible.

Politicians aren’t dumb. They know it’s easier to lie then tell constituents that it’s going to cost a kajillion dollars of hard-earned cash to address some of the more intractable environmental issues. Fix climate change? cha-ching. Repair or replace an aging water infrastructure under every large metropolis in the country? cha-ching. Stop a new development in order to preserve an endangered species? Lost profits. It’s all too much for the overburdened consumer. Politicians know this and have offered to do the thinking for us. And since they take their jobs seriously, they’ve devised clever phrases that should help ease the burden and obfuscate the truth. All you have to do is keep voting for them on election day.

Levitan searched the internet to find the first time a politician used the phrase, “I’m not a scientist…,” tracing it back to Ronald Reagan in 1980. During his campaign against Jimmy Carter, Reagan waxed philosophically about the amount of sulfur dioxide (a component of acid rain) Mount St. Helens had released into the atmosphere following its eruption: “more … than has been released in the last 10 years of automobile driving.” Turns out that you can be really REALLY wrong when you don’t understand the science. In Reagan’s case, it was many orders of magnitude off the mark — the volcano’s eruption released 2,000 tons of SO2 per day into the atmosphere while at the time, the U.S. population was releasing 81,000 tons of SO2 and the world population was at 300,000 tons!

Not a Scientist is great for science geeks and everyone else who lives on planet earth (notice I didn’t say “anyone who cares about the environment”?), but let’s just get this out — you’re not going to walk away with a warm fuzzy feeling after reading it. You will gain a few tools to help you spot and then navigate around the many lies you’ll hear about the environment from those elected to represent you, so go for it. As they say, knowledge is power. Read Not A Scientist and get on with your powerful self.

pjlazos 10.15.17

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
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32 Responses to Not A Scientist

  1. hilarymb says:

    Nor do I … but to get round the WP problem in the beginning I used my WP account, and so having a google one via blogger – this seems to eliminate commenting challenges. I know people don’t like G … yet sadly just occasionally life falls that way …

    Like Disqus and SquareSpace … having to have accounts to comment there … perhaps you have a google account … otherwise I don’t k-now!! Cheers H

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rubyred2017 says:

    Politicians great liars indeed!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Sounds like a very interesting book. I’ll have to get it.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. This sounds like a great read that will find it’s way to the bottom of my TBR. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Reblogged this on A Thousand Finds and commented:
    My blogging friend PJ Lazos at “Green Life, Blue Water” has a great blog about a great-sounding book, Not a Scientist by Dave Levitan. It is about how politicians misuse and abuse scientific facts. It also sets the story straight, giving you the real facts behind some recent political whoppers.

    Unlike the politicians profiled, I am a scientist, and I don’t think I could have re-read all these examples again without the process driving me crazy. I’m glad Dave was able to hold his nose and compile them (and the debunking of the various political falsehoods) into one volume. PJ was also able to meet the author in person at a recent book festival in Collingswood, NJ! As she writes in her blog, “knowledge is power. Read Not A Scientist and get on with your powerful self.”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. hilarymb says:

    Hi PJ … as asked for http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk … thanks – I did check … if you click my gravatar – it takes you through and there you see the blog to click on … but I’ve now added an email box .. cheers Hilary

    Liked by 4 people

  7. A great topic and so timely! Thanks for informing us about this book, which deserves to be widely read. I hope it’s not “preaching to the choir,” as some might categorize it. I’m reblogging this on “A Thousand Finds.” Best, Karen

    Liked by 2 people

    • pjlazos says:

      I don’t think it was preaching to the choir. It’s hard to argue with the facts although that is the point of the book. 😘

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with you, but then, I’m part of the “choir.” I was reading a couple of reviews of the book on goodreads, and there was an interesting one from a science teacher who said he was using it in a class to teach high school students how to write about STEM topics. He said the problem was that he works in a red state and it was hard to use the book in his class because it was mostly about lies from the Republican party and didn’t have enough about lies from Democratic party politicians. I understand where he’s coming from and I can see how that could be difficult in a red-state classroom–yet, I think part of his problem is that at least in the current environment, Republican politicians just tell more lies. Dave can only report what’s out there!

        Liked by 2 people

      • pjlazos says:

        Haha! So true. At least the teacher found a way to introduce the subject matter. I read somewhere that by the time kids get to college their minds are made up so you have to get them earlier.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Just want to add that it’s not too late in college. Both my brother and I changed our minds about a number of big things in college and through our 20s.

        I have changed my mind about a few small things since then, but I haven’t undergone any major political realignment. Some say you get more conservative as you get older, but it doesn’t seem to have happened to me yet!

        Liked by 3 people

      • pjlazos says:

        Good to know, and as for politics, I think I’ve gotten more fiscally conservative and socially liberal, so there’s that.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I was always fiscally conservative in theory, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve had more opportunity to put that into practice.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Ken Dowell says:

    Scientists and politicians think and work in completely opposite directions. The scientist researches and studies an issue using his or her findings to reach a conclusion. The politician starts with a conclusion then tries to find supporting evidence.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. hilarymb says:

    Hi PJ – sounds an interesting book to have around …and I know there are lots of ‘mistakes’ made when politicians quote things … but I’m sure would be a good read – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 5 people

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