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CFI Freethinker’s Book Club: Denialism

CFI Vancouver's Book Club meets every second Saturday of the month at The Grind Coffee Shop on Main Street at King Edward. Most of the books we discuss are available through the Vancouver Public Libraries - http://www.vpl.vancouver.bc.ca/, can be found for sale at Chapters or online at Amazon.ca

Admission is free, however please consider becoming a member of CFI and/or making a donation to help keep this and other programs running.

December's book is 'Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives ' by Michael Specter.

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From Amazon.ca:

In this provocative and headline-making book, Michael Specter confronts the widespread fear of science and its terrible toll on individuals and the planet.

In Denialism, New Yorker staff writer Michael Specter reveals that Americans have come to mistrust institutions and especially the institution of science more today than ever before. For centuries, the general view had been that science is neither good nor bad—that it merely supplies information and that new information is always beneficial. Now, science is viewed as a political constituency that isn’t always in our best interest. We live in a world where the leaders of African nations prefer to let their citizens starve to death rather than import genetically modified grains. Childhood vaccines have proven to be the most effective public health measure in history, yet people march on Washington to protest their use. In the United States a growing series of studies show that dietary supplements and “natural” cures have almost no value, and often cause harm. We still spend billions of dollars on them. In hundreds of the best universities in the world, laboratories are anonymous, unmarked, and surrounded by platoons of security guards—such is the opposition to any research that includes experiments with animals. And pharmaceutical companies that just forty years ago were perhaps the most visible symbol of our remarkable advance against disease have increasingly been seen as callous corporations propelled solely by avarice and greed.

As Michael Specter sees it, this amounts to a war against progress. The issues may be complex but the choices are not: Are we going to continue to embrace new technologies, along with acknowledging their limitations and threats, or are we ready to slink back into an era of magical thinking? In Denialism, Specter makes an argument for a new Enlightenment, the revival of an approach to the physical world that was stunningly effective for hundreds of years: What can be understood and reliably repeated by experiment is what nature regarded as true. Now, at the time of mankind’s greatest scientific advances—and our greatest need for them—that deal must be renewed.

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Please bring your ideas for future books to the next meeting, or email them to us at vancouver<at>cficanada<dot>ca

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  • John M.

    Very rewarding. A good lively discussion with a diversity of points of view. The number of new faces was gratifying.

    December 8, 2012

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