"An impassioned plea for science literacy. Given the state of the world today, in which scientifically under-informed voters elect scientifically illiterate politicians, David Helfand has written the right book at the right time with the right message. Read it now. The future of our civilization may depend on it." -Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist
We live in the Information Age, with billions of bytes of data just two swipes away. Yet how much of this is mis- or even dis-information? A lot of it is, and your search engine can’t tell the difference. As a result, an avalanche of misinformation threatens to overwhelm the discourse we so desperately need to address complex social problems such as climate change, the food and water crises, biodiversity collapse, and emerging threats to public health. This book provides an inoculation against the misinformation epidemic by cultivating scientific habits of mind. Anyone can do it—indeed, everyone must do it if our species is to long survive on this crowded and finite planet.
This survival guide supplies an essential set of apps for the pre-frontal cortex while making science both accessible and entertaining. It will dissolve your fear of numbers, demystify graphs, and elucidate the key concepts of probability, all while celebrating the precise use of language and logic. David Helfand, one of our nation’s leading astronomers and science educators, has taught scientific habits of mind to generations in the classroom, where he continues to wage a provocative, unending battle against sloppy thinking and the encroachment of misinformation.
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"David Helfand’s Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age gives readers a chance to spend time with one of this country’s clearest and best critical thinkers. Helfand channels Steven Pinker’s ability to dissect language and John Alan Paulos’s ability to explain numbers with Richard Dawkins’ ability to explain our existence and George Carlin’s ability to make us laugh. A real pleasure." -Dr. Paul Offit
Helfand's work is an admirable response to a long-standing problem of sloppy thinking. (Publishers Weekly)
Important and timely. (Library Journal)
Important and timely. (Library Journal)
Read excerpts at The Neiman Report "Why Journalists Shouldn't be Blinded by Bad Science"
Astronomy Magazine Review
I’ve known quite a few astronomers over the years who I consider to be geniuses. And David Helfand is one of them. Former chair of the Department of Astronomy at Columbia University; a founding tutor and president of Quest University in Canada; former president of the American Astronomical Society; and much more, Helfand is a man brimming with incredible insights on the universe.
Some of you know that I’ve written about the current miserable state of scientific thinking in this country and in the world overall. One wonders if progress in understanding is moving backwards, snuffed out by crazy entertainment and web-blog and social media nonsense. But this book makes quite a claim to cure what ails us, with a big dose of reality. And scientific sense. To anyone who asks me what they should read these days, I will answer this book: David Helfand’s A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age.
The work (325 pp., hardcover, Columbia University Press, New York, 2016, $30; ISBN 978–0–231–16872–4), begins with a walk around the Columbia campus and a description of various observations about the universe Helfand relates to his students. It is grippingly written. And the journey takes many a turn from there. Helfand brilliantly explores the philosophy of science in many ways, with a definition of science, an examination of scale, and witty discussions of numbers, graphing information, logic and language, statistics, correlation and causation, pseudoscience and quackery, and a dive into the perils of ignorance.
He concludes this absorbing essay by further addressing skepticism as a way of thinking and asking us what is really worth knowing, and why. This is the kind of book that we need a whole lot more of in this world. Helfand creates it authoritatively, entertainingly, and as a master of his topics.
It ought to be required reading for anyone who genuinely loves knowledge and wants to know how the quest for truth takes place on our planet, and how it must take place throughout the whole of the cosmos.
--Dave Eicher, Editor in Chief, Astronomy Magazine