Joined: July 2006
Hey. I was thinking about picking up Chris Mooney's "The Republican War on Science", which I have heard a lot of good things about. I was wondering if anyone here would like to recommend or discuss any other books related to conflicts between science and politics (religious politics or otherwise).
In particular, there's one book in specific I was wondering if anyone knew anything about it:
The book is called "Imaginary Weapons" by Sharon Weinberger, and it's apparently a chronicle of one specific military research project into developing something called an "Isomer Bomb", a project which continued on for years although independent analysis largely concluded the science behind the project was founded on simple experimental error. This book interested me a great deal because it reminded me of another book I read recently and enjoyed, a book by Jon Ronson named "The Men who Stare at Goats" on the subject of the strange things which can occur when military research projects are given poor oversight. However, checking up on Weinberger's book on the internet and Amazon's review page, I am finding some allegations that the book has factual accuracy issues. For starters, a couple of people observed that the book has glaring proofreading problems ranging from grammatical errors to a passage which apparently references the Yucca Mountains as being in Colorado. This sounds to me mostly just like the book was rushed to press, not really a problem, but this could indicate more serious errors slipped by unnoticed. More worrying to me are claims that the book plays fast and loose with facts, and misrepresents the history of the "Isomer Bomb" related research projects in order to make a more entertaining naarative. If these allegations are true I'd just as soon skip the book.
But this is where things get odd-- when I look carefully, I find most of the complaints about the book that a Google search turns up are excruciatingly vague, suggesting that specific objections about the book can be found on "blogs" but never explaining what blogs or where. All objections with any specificity seem to be directly linked back to a specific person named Doina Collins and her husband Carl, who have an entire website set up at imaginaryweapons.net dedicated to complaining about the book-- a website which seems to consist mostly of very vicious attacks on Ms. Weinberger which are long on rhetoric but scanty on details. This is very suspicious because, although they don't make this clear in their internet postings, Carl Collins turns out to be the scientist responsible for the research project the book was about in the first place. This mysterious failure to disclose makes me wonder if the Collinses were in some way behind at least some of the complaints that originally made me start worrying about the book-- since most of the complaints I'd seen on various sites were very repetitive, as if they were written by the same person who was just going from website to website posting the same thing. In one case I saw a comment along the lines of "this book has errors, search google for blogs on the subject" that had been cut&pasted literally verbatim directly into the comments sections of more than one blog. So now I'm just not sure what to think.
I was wondering if anyone had read Weinberger's book and could maybe give me some indication whether the book does in fact seem to suffer from factual sloppiness, or whether the book is a fine piece of journalism and the appearance of complaints about the book is due to a one-man internet astroturf campaign.
Anyway, just curious, and I'd be curious for any recommendations of other books that anyone might have. Thanks!