Science Says Bookclub

The War on Science - Chapters 5 & 6 Summary

July 29, 2020

In Chapter 6, Otto continues his examination of the evolution of public thought and scientific ideas through the space age and into the 21st century. During this time, he argues, the public’s skepticism of science was due to its focus on research with primarily military and industrial applications. During the countercultural movement of the 1960s, young people were critical and suspicious of the government, and therefore government-funded science.

The War on Science Part 2 - Chapters 3, 4 & 5 Summary

July 08, 2020

Otto begins Part 2 by describing the founding of the United States, specifically that the US was founded not as a Christian nation, but rather one based on the ideals of freedom — including freedom of exploration and religion. The founders of the US, as well as European and other scholars, believed that science was to be used to assist in the study of God’s creations and that its purpose was to shed light on the wonders of the world created by God. They felt that Nature, unlike divinity, was knowable and understandable and humans could understand God’s will by studying nature.

The War on Science Part 1 - Chapters 1 & 2 Summary 

June 17, 2020

The first part of Otto’s book truly digs deep into the questions “Why is there a war on Science?” and “Who is Waging It?” Otto begins this section, titled Democracy’s Science Problem, with an explanation of the role of science in our social and political worlds. Science has the power to do great good, but it can also be weaponized against persons and countries.

Part V: The Sun Chariot - Reader's Summary

December 04, 2019

In the final section of the book, Zimmer wraps up his narrative but leaves us with many of our own questions. The development of the genetic technology CRISPR and the implications of the technology are revisited. One of the first applied uses of CRISPR was to enhance and alter crops quickly. From there, the use of CRISPR expanded to multiple cell types and species, raising many ethical questions along the way.

Part IV: Other Channels - Reader's Summary

November 14, 2019

Part IV of SHHML takes us away from traditional methods of heritability into the weird world of DNA-less information transmission. "You, My Friend Are a Wonderland" starts off with a fascinating tale of a glowing fish that doesn’t actually glow. It turns out this clever fish has formed a mutually beneficial relationship with a special glowing bacteria that has infected each newly hatched fish for thousands (at least) of generations. Zimmer points out this phenomenon can be found throughout the animal kingdom from fish, clams, and all the way to our own cells.

Part III: The Pedigree Within - Reader's Summary

October 30, 2019

In Ex Ovo Onmia Zimmer talks about the development of ecto meso endoderm and how when a cell divides it decides which of its characteristics it wants to pass on to its offspring (cell differentiation). He discusses Conklin and how he traced the trajectory of cells from zygotes to differentiated cell types to tissues and organs. Once a cell differentiates it loses some of its ability to become certain types of cells; germ cells are the only cells that maintain their ability to become anything and have a complete genetic profile.

Part II: Wayward DNA - Reader's Summary

October 15, 2019

In part two of SHHML, Carl Zimmer dives into the genetic basis of heredity and the ways in which genetic research has been used to justify prejudice.

Part I: A Stroke on the Cheek - Reader's Summary

October 01, 2019

Overall, pt 1 explains the complicated history of genetics from vocabulary, to wars, to scientific method, and finally to a double helix comprised of base pairs from four simple letters, ATCG.


Please, don't kill this idea

March 05, 2018

This third round of essays contained some doosies – ideas risky enough to make any scientist cringe. A few truly jarring essays overshadowed this section and the subsequent book club discussion. The contentious essays were (in some people's opinions) weakly argued and dangerous, and definitely deserving of a rebuttal: Gary Klein boldly claims that Evidence-Based Medicine must die.

This Idea Must Die: Intriguing concept, lackluster execution

March 01, 2018

In This Idea Must Die, John Brockman collected essays from notable thinkers of today to answer the 2014 question: What idea has become a relic blocking human progress? A nice feature of this book is that there is a lot about which we book-clubbers can opine: the essay selection, the ordering of the essays, the content of the essays, the writing style of the essays, the originality of the essays, the authors of the essays, etc. And opine we have!