Idiots Run Amok

Frequent correspondent Neal Gussman recommended the new book “Idiot America” by Charles P. Pierce in a comment he wrote on one of my editorials on climate change. In his comment, Neal wrote that Pierce “shows how the people who fought the link between smoking and cancer gave those who fight global warming a playbook.” I picked up a copy of “Idiot America” on Neal’s recommendation, and just finished reading it. It’s not really a subject for a book review in C&EN because it’s more about politics and right-wing extremists than it is about science. But there’s a good deal of science in it. Pierce writes on the evolution/creationism clash, the Terri Schiavo debacle, and global warming. “Idiot America” is a serious, funny, angry book by a veteran reporter who takes political debate seriously. ACS members and other C&EN readers who don’t like my editorials won’t like “Idiot America.” A sample: “How does [Idiot America] work? This is how it works. On August 11, 2005, a newspaper account of the intelligent design movement contained this remarkable sentence: “They have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin’s defenders firmly on the defensive. “‘A politically savvy challenge to evolution’ makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity or running someone for president on the Alchemy party ticket. It doesn’t matter what percentage of people believe that they ought to be able to flap their arms and fly: none of them can. … The sentence is so arrantly foolish that the only real news in it is where it appeared. “On the front page. “Of the New York Times.” Well worth reading.

Author: Rudy Baum

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