Read 1/18/20 to 1/19/20
The Mismeasure of Man was a poignant book about the use of racism, sexism, and xenophobia to fuel misinformation and bad science to support the bigoted views of scientists throughout history. Gould tells a story about how bigotry can drive us to believe things that aren’t true, even in science. I read this novel right after How We Know What Isn’t So where it talked all about human bias and how it can lead us to believe in untrue things because of our, or someone else, preconceived beliefs.
A key point in that book is how science is probably our best tool to try in avoid said deception. Of course, that makes this book all the more discouraging considering how rampant bias has allowed racist and sexist bias to exists throughout scientific history. In this way, it is clear that science is not immune from such biases. It highlights how even scientists need to be acutely aware of these biases not only in our everyday life but also in the science that we do. If our goal is to reach the truth, then there is a clear path forward to do so.
Gould uses this book to discuss a series of cases where scientists use bad judgement, lies, and bad methodology to reach what are clearly preconceived conclusions based on their personal bigotry. They do so by manipulating their approach, manipulating the data, or outright misrepresenting what they find to get to their conclusion. This is a necessary book, and I implore every scientist to read it. It doesn’t matter if this is your field. Don’t assume you are a immune to this type of fallibility (in your science and in how you treat people).
My biggest problem with this book is it overall structure. The way Gould presents the book is very in-cohesive. As I said, it covers a series of examples where bias has produced bad science. He does not shy away from this shameful side of science, but he fails to create an overarching narrative. Each example felt separate. Moving from one example to the next meant I had trouble retaining the details of most of them. I don’t expect to memorize everything he tells me, but I would have liked a more succinct conclusion to each example that tied it to the next one so we have a better overall picture. The book doesn’t flow well. Sure, I leave the book with the point across, but I think each example could have been tied together more effectively.
All together, I do not regret reading this. I’ve already said I think other people should read this too,especially scientists. Not all works of science are the easiest to read. Some people would rather ignore history rather than acknowledge the fallibility or the harm that the that their history has caused. As I am a part of this institution. Therefore, I am have to be able to defend science against these actions that abuse the institution of science. It is the job of scientists to demonstrate how science is still the best tool to avoid misinformation, misdirection and bigotry. Still, I am not rating this on principle but on its merit as a book. 3/5 stars
Rating Break Down
Writing Style (7%): 7/10
Content (15%): 10/10
Structure (15%): 5/10
Summary (1%): 7/10
Engagement (5%): 5/10
Enjoyment (25%): 5/10
Comprehension (20%): 6/10
Pacing (2%): 5/10
Desire to Reread (5%): 2/10
Special (5%): 10/10
Final Rating: 3.11/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.
3 thoughts on “The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen J. Gould ★★★”