Reality Check

Reality Check

How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future
Donald R. Prothero, illustrated by Pat Linse, foreword by Michael Shermer
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 08/01/2013
Format: Hardback 39 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01029-2
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2013 Foreword Book of the Year Award Silver Winner, Science

The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line. To shed light on this darkness, Donald R. Prothero explains the scientific process and why society has come to rely on science not only to provide a better life but also to reach verifiable truths no other method can obtain. He describes how major scientific ideas that are accepted by the entire scientific community (evolution, anthropogenic global warming, vaccination, the HIV cause of AIDS, and others) have been attacked with totally unscientific arguments and methods. Prothero argues that science deniers pose a serious threat to society, as their attempts to subvert the truth have resulted in widespread scientific ignorance, increased risk of global catastrophes, and deaths due to the spread of diseases that could have been prevented.

Author Bio

Recipient of the 2013 James Shea Award of the National Association of Geology Teachers for outstanding writing and editing in the geosciences.

Donald R. Prothero is Emeritus Professor of Geology at Occidental College and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology. He has published 32 books, including Rhinoceros Giants: The Paleobiology of Indricotheres (IUP, 2013); Earth: Portrait of a Planet; The Evolution of Earth; Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters; Catastrophes!; and After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals (IUP, 2006).


“A skeptic argues that science deniers pose a serious threat to society as attempts to subvert the truth result in widespread scientific ignorance, increased risk of global catastrophes, and deaths due to the spread of diseases that could have been prevented.”

“Prothero is a skeptic. So am I. When we call ourselves skeptics we mean simply that we take a scientific approach to the evaluation of claims. Science is skepticism and scientists are naturally skeptical because most claims turn out to be false. Weeding out the few kernels of wheat from the substantial pile of chaff requires extensive observation, careful experimentation, and cautious inference to the best conclusion. Donald Prothero is a scientist's scientist in this regard. . . . In this volume you will indeed get a reality check on some of the most important issues of our time.”
 — Michael Shermer, author of The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Be

“Reality Check is an entertaining, thought-provoking, and informative read.”
 — Reports of the National Center for Science Education

“Prothero's treatise will give the science-minded something to cheer about, a brief summary of the real data that supports so many critical aspects of modern life.”
 — Publishers Weekly

“Strongly recommended for popular-science readers who want better to be able to explain and defend science and scientific methods to others.”
 — Library Journal

“The shabby tactics of science denialists sparked this astute exposition of what we lose when science is sidelined. . . . Ultimately, Prothero argues, by claiming that clear findings on climate change, biodiversity loss and overpopulation are false, deniers inch us closer to catastrophic planetary tipping points.”
 — Nature

Customer Reviews

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by DARREN STEPHENS Date Added: Friday 19 December, 2014
This is a dynamite, comprehensive book, with a thorough overview of the landscape of science deniers. Dr. Prothero sets up and then knocks down, one by one, the sometimes jaw-droppingly egregious examples of truly flawed thinking and non-existent science behind the myths used by the clueless and willfully wrong. In this one book there are dozens of excellent examples of bad science, along with hundreds of data points to support Prothero's arguments. I enjoyed discovering and reading this book, and am very proud to have been chosen to narrate the audiobook.

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars [5 of 5 Stars]

Table of Contents

1. Reality Check
Belief vs. Reality
2. Science, our Candle in the Darkness
A World Transformed
What Is Science?
Baloney Detection
Whom Can We Trust?
3. Selling Out Science
"Cancer by the Carton"
The Truth Will Set You Free—If You Can Find It
Secondhand Smoke Kills, Too
Star Wars vs. Nuclear Winter—How To Crucify Carl Sagan
4. Making the Environment the Enemy: Acid Rain, the Ozone Hole, and the Demonization of Rachel Carson
The Tragedy of the Commons
Acid Rain: Death from the Skies
The Ozone Hole: Another Environmental Crisis Resolved
Rachel Carson and DDT: How Far Will the Anti-Environmentalists Go?
5. Warm Enough for You?
Political Hot Air
Global Climate Change: the Scientific Evidence
The Global Climate Denialist Conspiracy
It’s all Politics—and Our Planet Is the Hostage
6. Gimme that Old Time Religion: Creationism and the Denial of Humanity’s Place in Nature
The Battle that Never Ends
Why Do We Say Evolution Is Real?
What Is Creationism?
What Is Intelligent Design Creationism?
The Creationists’ Standard (Discredited) Arguments
Why Should We Care?
7. Jenny’s Body Count: Playing Russian Roulette with Our Children
The "Good Old Days"
The Anti-Vaxxers
Vaccines and Autism: Is There a Link?
Playing Russian Roulette--With Other People’s Children
8. Victims of Modern Witch Doctors: AIDS Denialism
The Strangest Denialism of All
The Scourge of Africa
Ignorance that Kills: AIDS Denialism
Denying Death
9. If it Quacks like a Quack: Snake-Oil Con Artists in an Era of Medical Science
Modern Snake-Oil Salesmen
Homeopathy: The "Water Cure" Revisited
Back-Cracking: The Chiropractic Con Game
Where is the Evidence?
10. Down the Slope of Hubbert’s Curve: The End of Cheap Oil and Natural Resources
The Never-Ending Oil Crisis
The Wealth of Nations