Faith vs. Fact

Faith vs. Fact

Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible by Jerry A. Coyne

BL 240.3 .C69 2015

“The last five hundred years have seen monumental conflicts between science and faith, from Galileo’s sentence to lifetime house arrest in 1632 over his claim of a Sun-centered solar system to the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial,” the titanic clash between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan over whether a high-school teacher could tell his students that humans had evolved (the jury said no). Schoolteachers in 2015 are still battling to teach evolution; long-conquered childhood diseases are reappearing because of religious objections to inoculation; despite legal victories, there are still vicious battles over abortion, assisted suicide, and homosexuality; and scientists fearing for their federal funding (controlled by climate-change-denying congressional committees) cling to “accommodationism” as a refuge – can’t we just tolerate each other’s beliefs and get along that way?

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne could not be clearer: his answer is “Absolutely not.” Science and religion are incompatible because they have different methods for getting knowledge about reality, have different ways of assessing the reliability of that knowledge, and, in the end, arrive at conflicting conclusions about the universe. “Knowledge” acquired by religion is at odds not only with scientific knowledge but with that professed by other religions. In the end, religion’s methods, unlike those of science, are useless for understanding reality.

Using the clear-eyed, rational methodology of a world-class scientist, Coyne dismantles every claim to explaining the physical world, and the life in it, that religion proposes, from Genesis on. While science relies on observation, reason, testing, and experiment, methods that have led to tremendous progress, religion’s methods are based on faith – belief in things for which there is no evidence, insufficient evidence, or even counter-evidence – as well as on dogma, authority, and “confirmation bias,” the tendency to see as true what you want to be true. Coyne irrefutably demonstrates the grave harm – to individuals and to our planet – in mistaking faith for fact in making the most important decisions about the world we live in.”
– publisher description

The Myth of Race

The Myth of Race

The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman

HT 1521 .S83 2014

“Biological races do not exist – and never have. This view is shared by all scientists who study variation in human populations. Yet racial prejudice and intolerance based on the myth of race remain deeply ingrained in Western society. In his powerful examination of a persistent, false, and poisonous idea, Robert Sussman explores how race emerged as a social construct from early biblical justifications to the pseudoscientific studies of today.

The Myth of Race traces the origins of modern racist ideology to the Spanish Inquisition, revealing how sixteenth-century theories of racial degeneration became a crucial justification for Western imperialism and slavery. In the nineteenth century, these theories fused with Darwinism to produce the highly influential and pernicious eugenics movement. Believing that traits from cranial shape to raw intelligence were immutable, eugenicists developed hierarchies that classified certain races, especially fair-skinned “Aryans,” as superior to others. These ideologues proposed programs of intelligence testing, selective breeding, and human sterilization – policies that fed straight into Nazi genocide. Sussman examines how opponents of eugenics, guided by the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas’s new, scientifically supported concept of culture, exposed fallacies in racist thinking.

Although eugenics is now widely discredited, some groups and individuals today claim a new scientific basis for old racist assumptions. Pondering the continuing influence of racist research and thought, despite all evidence to the contrary, Sussman explains why – when it comes to race – too many people still mistake bigotry for science.”
– publisher description

Whatever Happened to the Metric System?

Whatever Happened to the Metric System

Whatever Happened to the Metric System?: How America Kept Its Feet by John Bemelmans Marciano

QC 92 .U54 M37 2014

“The American standard system of measurement is a unique and odd thing to behold with its esoteric, inconsistent standards: twelve inches in a foot, three feet in a yard, sixteen ounces in a pound, one hundred pennies in a dollar. For something as elemental as counting and estimating the world around us, it seems like a confusing tool to use. So how did we end up with it?

Most of the rest of the world is on the metric system, and for a time in the 1970s America appeared ready to make the switch. Yet it never happened, and the reasons for that get to the root of who we think we are, just as the measurements are woven into the ways we think. John Marciano chronicles the origins of measurement systems, the kaleidoscopic array of standards throughout Europe and the thirteen American colonies, the combination of intellect and circumstance that resulted in the metric system’s creation in France in the wake of the French Revolution, and America’s stubborn adherence to the hybrid United States Customary System ever since. As much as it is a tale of quarters and tenths, it is also a human drama, replete with great inventors, visionary presidents, obsessive activists, and science-loving technocrats.

Anyone who reads this inquisitive, engaging story will never read Robert Frost’s line “miles to go before I sleep” or eat a foot-long sub again without wondering, Whatever happened to the metric system?”
– publisher description

Weed the People

Weed the People

Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America by Bruce Barcott

HV 5822 .M3 B374 2015

“Marijuana legalization is the next great refutation of the impossible. The long era of pot prohibition is quickly giving way to an American social and economic revolution. In 2012, Bruce Barcott, a pot skeptic and middle-aged father, reluctantly voted for legalization. He woke up the next morning and wondered: What have we done? To answer that question, the award-winning author embarked on a journey into the strange new world of legal weed. The result is an investigative travelogue by turns humorous, insightful and brilliantly observed. Barcott meets botanists breeding new strains, investors chasing marijuana millions, marketers designing wholesome dope brands, scientists exploring how pot can heal and harm, and parents struggling to explain it to their kids. Weed the People is a sneak preview for the millions of Americans who will soon need to decide whether, when and how they use legal pot. Filled with the pungent aroma of change, Weed the People is a provocative examination of one of the most significant cultural moments of our time.”
– publisher description

Why Grow Up?

Why Grow Up

Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age by Susan Neiman

BF 710 .N44 2015

“What’s the appeal of growing old, of gaining responsibilities and giving up on dreams, of steadily trading possibility for experience?

The philosopher Susan Neiman argues that the absence of appealing models of maturity is not an accident: by describing life as a downhill process, we prepare young people to expect – and demand – very little from it. In Why Grow Up? she challenges our culture of permanent adolescence, turning to thinkers including Kant, Rousseau, and Arendt to find a model of maturity that is not a matter of resignation. In growing up, we move from the boundless trust of childhood to the peculiar mixture of disappointment and exhilaration that comes with adolescence. Maturity, however, means finding the courage to live in a world of painful uncertainty without giving in to dogma or despair. A grown-up, Neiman writes, helps to move the world closer to what it should be while never losing sight of what it is.

Why Grow Up? is a witty and concise argument for the value of maturity as a subversive ideal: a goal rarely achieved in its entirety, and all the more worth striving for.”
– publisher description

The Digital Doctor

The Digital Doctor

The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age by Robert Wachter

R 858 .W385 2015

“While modern medicine produces miracles, it also delivers care that is too often unsafe, unreliable, unsatisfying, and impossibly expensive. For the past few decades, technology has been touted as the cure for all of healthcare’s ills.

But medicine stubbornly resisted computerization – until now. Over the past five years, thanks largely to billions of dollars in federal incentives, healthcare has finally gone digital.

Yet once clinicians started using computers to actually deliver care, it dawned on them that something was deeply wrong. Why were doctors no longer making eye contact with their patients? How could one of America’s leading hospitals give a teenager a 39-fold overdose of a common antibiotic, despite a state-of-the-art computerized prescribing system? How could a recruiting ad for physicians tout the absence of an electronic medical record as a major selling point?

Logically enough, we’ve pinned the problems on clunky software, flawed implementations, absurd regulations, and bad karma. It was all of those things, but it was also something far more complicated. And far more interesting.

Written with a rare combination of compelling stories and hard-hitting analysis by one of the nation’s most thoughtful physicians,  The Digital Doctor examines healthcare at the dawn of the computer age. It tackles the hard questions, from how technology is changing care at the bedside to whether government intervention has been useful or destructive. And it does so with clarity, insight, humor, and compassion. Ultimately, it is a hopeful story.

“We need to recognize that computers in healthcare don’t simply replace my doctor’s scrawl with Helvetica 12,” writes the author, Dr. Robert Wachter. “Instead, they transform the work, the people who do it, and their relationships with each other and with patients. . . Sure, we should have thought of this sooner. But it’s not too late to get it right.”

This riveting book offers the prescription for getting it right, making it essential reading for everyone – patient and provider alike – who cares about our healthcare system.”
– publisher description

How Google Works

How Google Works

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg
with Alan Eagle

HD 9696.8 .U64 S36 2015

How Google Works is an entertaining, page-turning primer containing lessons that Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg have learned while helping grow Google from a young start-up to a global icon. Using anecdotes from Google’s corporate history, How Google Works covers everything that managers need to know to be successful in the digital age:

  • corporate culture
  • talent
  • communication
  • dealing with disruption
  • strategy
  • decision-making
  • innovation

Schmidt and Rosenberg explain how technology – the internet, mobile and cloud computing – has shifted the balance of power from companies to consumers. The companies that will thrive in this ever-changing landscape will be the ones that create superior products and attract a new breed of employees whom the authors dub ‘smart creatives.'”
– publisher description