A Murphysboro native has co-authored a book that takes aim at the politicization of science, especially by those on the political left.
Alex Berezow co-wrote “Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left” with Hank Campbell.
“Science is politically agnostic, but that doesn’t prevent people from using it to advance a political agenda,” Berezow wrote in an email. “People should always be wary of politicians or lobbyists who say, ‘The science says X,’ where X is some sort of policy they like. Science certainly can and should inform policy decisions, but it’s not the only factor to consider. Policy also incorporates economic, legal, ethical and pragmatic considerations.”
The authors were prompted to write the book for a number of reasons, Berezow said, including what they perceived to be unbalanced news coverage in science journalism.
“Journalists are quick to declare conservatives ‘anti-science’ because of their unwillingness to accept evolution and climate change. However, progressives have their own set of unscientific beliefs, such as rejection of nuclear power, rejection of genetically modified food, rejection of vaccines, opposition to animal research, and opposition to science education reform. Yet, the media fails to call out progressives who hold these beliefs.”
For example, little media coverage was given when President Barack Obama said vaccines may cause autism, a theory dismissed by the scientific community as myth, Berezow said.
Compare that, he said, to the coverage given when U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., “says something stupid about rape and pregnancy, that makes front-page news for over a week.”
“In short, when conservatives make an ignorant comment, it is national news; when progressives make an ignorant comment, it’s swept under the carpet. My co-author and I were appalled by this double standard in the media, so that is what motivated us to write the book,” he said. “We’re not taking sides; we’re simply telling, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.”
The media, he said, has also failed to investigate claims made by those on the left that the right side is anti-scientific.
“In reality, both sides of the political spectrum are willing to throw science under the bus if it conflicts with one of their pet beliefs,” he said.
Berezow, editor and writer for RealClearScience website, was interested in science from an early age. As a student at Carruthers Elementary School, he and classmates made a time capsule that was opened in 2000, the year they graduated from Murphysboro High School.
Inside the time capsule, Berezow found a piece of paper on which his second-grade self had written that he wanted to be a scientist.
“So, I was inspired at a young age. I was always fascinated by chemistry and biology, and I had a science kit when I was young,” he said.
He earned his bachelor’s in microbiology at SIU and has fond memories of his time there. All of his microbiology professors were “smart, friendly and funny,” he said, “but a few in particular stand out as extraordinary in my mind: David Clark, who is now retired; Michael Madigan, who also is now retired; and Laurie Achenbach, who is now an associate dean. All of them were phenomenal teachers, and I can honestly say I miss taking classes with them.”
He also complimented Robert Hahn, “the most enthusiastic professor I have ever met. He inspired in me a love of philosophy, and in my opinion, he is the best teacher I’ve ever had.”
After leaving SIU, he earned his doctorate in microbiology at the University of Washington.
In addition to RealClearScience, his work has been published in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist and other media outlets.
He expected the book to be controversial.
“Some people love it, and some people hate it,” he said. “Usually, the people who haven’t read it are the ones who hate it.”
On Twitter: @beckymalkovich