web site hit counter Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

Availability: Ready to download

Galileo’s Middle Finger is one American’s eye-opening story of life in the trenches of scientific controversy. For two decades, historian Alice Dreger has led a life of extraordinary engagement, combining activist service to victims of unethical medical research with defense of scientists whose work has outraged identity politics activists. With spirit and wit, Dreger offe Galileo’s Middle Finger is one American’s eye-opening story of life in the trenches of scientific controversy. For two decades, historian Alice Dreger has led a life of extraordinary engagement, combining activist service to victims of unethical medical research with defense of scientists whose work has outraged identity politics activists. With spirit and wit, Dreger offers in Galileo’s Middle Finger an unforgettable vision of the importance of rigorous truth seeking in today’s America, where both the free press and free scholarly inquiry struggle under dire economic and political threats. This illuminating chronicle begins with Dreger’s own research into the treatment of people born intersex (once called hermaphrodites). Realization of the shocking surgical and ethical abuses conducted in the name of “normalizing” intersex children’s gender identities moved Dreger to become an internationally recognized patient rights’ activist. But even as the intersex rights movement succeeded, Dreger began to realize how some fellow progressive activists were employing lies and personal attacks to silence scientists whose data revealed uncomfortable truths about humans. In researching one such case, Dreger suddenly became the target of just these kinds of attacks. Troubled, she decided to try to understand more—to travel the country to ferret out the truth behind various controversies, to obtain a global view of the nature and costs of these battles. Galileo’s Middle Finger describes Dreger’s long and harrowing journeys between the two camps for which she felt equal empathy: social justice activists determined to win and researchers determined to put hard truths before comfort. Ultimately what emerges is a lesson about the intertwining of justice and of truth—and a lesson of the importance of responsible scholars and journalists to our fragile democracy.


Compare

Galileo’s Middle Finger is one American’s eye-opening story of life in the trenches of scientific controversy. For two decades, historian Alice Dreger has led a life of extraordinary engagement, combining activist service to victims of unethical medical research with defense of scientists whose work has outraged identity politics activists. With spirit and wit, Dreger offe Galileo’s Middle Finger is one American’s eye-opening story of life in the trenches of scientific controversy. For two decades, historian Alice Dreger has led a life of extraordinary engagement, combining activist service to victims of unethical medical research with defense of scientists whose work has outraged identity politics activists. With spirit and wit, Dreger offers in Galileo’s Middle Finger an unforgettable vision of the importance of rigorous truth seeking in today’s America, where both the free press and free scholarly inquiry struggle under dire economic and political threats. This illuminating chronicle begins with Dreger’s own research into the treatment of people born intersex (once called hermaphrodites). Realization of the shocking surgical and ethical abuses conducted in the name of “normalizing” intersex children’s gender identities moved Dreger to become an internationally recognized patient rights’ activist. But even as the intersex rights movement succeeded, Dreger began to realize how some fellow progressive activists were employing lies and personal attacks to silence scientists whose data revealed uncomfortable truths about humans. In researching one such case, Dreger suddenly became the target of just these kinds of attacks. Troubled, she decided to try to understand more—to travel the country to ferret out the truth behind various controversies, to obtain a global view of the nature and costs of these battles. Galileo’s Middle Finger describes Dreger’s long and harrowing journeys between the two camps for which she felt equal empathy: social justice activists determined to win and researchers determined to put hard truths before comfort. Ultimately what emerges is a lesson about the intertwining of justice and of truth—and a lesson of the importance of responsible scholars and journalists to our fragile democracy.

30 review for Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

  1. 4 out of 5

    Barry Belmont

    I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. I signed up for a chance to win given my love of all things science writing. Penguin Press was nice enough to send me a copy and I wanted to return the favor by writing a really thorough review. When I began, I didn’t know what this would become. I see now that it’s a grotesquely long review. However, I am including it all as my way of saying thank you for the opportunity. Now to the review proper. This is the worst book I’ve read all year. In the followin I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. I signed up for a chance to win given my love of all things science writing. Penguin Press was nice enough to send me a copy and I wanted to return the favor by writing a really thorough review. When I began, I didn’t know what this would become. I see now that it’s a grotesquely long review. However, I am including it all as my way of saying thank you for the opportunity. Now to the review proper. This is the worst book I’ve read all year. In the following sections I hope to illustrate what it was like reading this book and why I can only recommend it to a small subset of the population that would have probably bought it anyway. It does not live up to its title, nor its description. This is a bad book with a really good publishing firm behind it. I was convinced I would really like this book. That is, until I read it. 1. Everything From the very first paragraph I could tell this was going to be a lot of work to get through: “Soon enough, I will get to the death threats, the sex charges, the alleged genocides, the epidemics, the alien abductees, the anti lesbian drug, the unethical ethicists, the fight with Martina Navratilova, and of course, Galileo’s middle finger. But first I have to tell you a little bit about how I got into this mess. And explain why I think we now have a very dangerous situation on our hands.” This paragraph tells you everything you need to know about the book that follows. It’s clunky prose in the guise of the titillating. It’s going to go all over the place without every really saying anything. There will be no focus. And when the logic of a situation does not follow, the author will say “put that to one side, we’re going to talk about something else now.” It’s hard to say where this book goes wrong on a single point. It is certainly written by someone competent, a person who is very well versed in the topic. And the topic itself is rather interesting. Neither of the two usual suspects for a bad book are present. So when we ask ourselves where and how and in what way things go wrong, we're ultimately besides ourselves and the book saying that it basically all goes wrong. Starting from that first paragraph to her final uninspired ending (whose penultimate paragraph finishes with a thought about Nazis), this book gets it wrong in so many ways. 2. What this book is and is not about I guess I didn’t know what to expect going in. I had originally entered the giveaway for this book because I’m a huge fan of science and the history and philosophy there of. So, I saw a book about a relic of science (Galileo’s middle finger) with some interesting buzzwords in the subtitle (heretics, activists, justice), and I thought, hey, this is the book for me. It’ll have history, philosophy, ethics, and science all bundled up. My kind of book. But I was wrong. And so are you if you think that any of the preceding paragraph applies to your expectations of the book. This is a book about a woman who wants to tell you about the last decade of her life. She wants to tell you about the people she’s met, the places she’s gone, the emails she’s read. She’ll tell you about how right she is about stuff. She’ll tell you that she’s good at what she does, though she’ll also say that sometimes it’s challenging. You’ll hear about her husband (when the story needs him), you’ll hear about her friends, the email groups she’s a part of, the vacations she’s taken, how inspired by the Obama 2008 campaign she was, and even about that time she came down with whooping cough. There’s extensive discussions about websites and sitting in rooms talking to people and standing in rooms talking to people and plane rides. She’ll also talk about transgender/intersex rights, theories of gender modification, and the current state of pediatric medicine in regards to these things (kind of). What she won’t talk about to any great degree is science, history, philosophy, heretics, or justice. 3. And then, and then, and then The narrative structure of this book is what I think can best be described as an And Then Approach (ATA). There is very little in the way of an arc or a goal or a progression to which we are striving. And that’s likely the result of the fact that this is just a recent history retelling of Dreger’s personal life, not a summary examination of the historical record of science, activism, and justice. We are told throughout that she got money to do this book and here she was doing it. If I had to guess, she was probably writing portions of this books long before she really knew what she wanted to say. Her reliance then on the ATA becomes understandable: she had something on the page, something else had to go on the page, well what about this thing that just happened to me. Many times throughout the book she has no better way of setting up a story than to simply say something like “That’s the short version of what I discovered in those three years of work. Here’s the slightly longer one,” (236) or “That is a tale in and of itself” (246). If the author has to constantly reiterate that they are telling you a story then how compelling can the narrative really be? The ATA (and it’s accompanying, iterative AT-ATA) are almost exclusively the bulk thrust of the book. We’re taken from scene to scene with very little done to establish why we should care where we are or why we would be interested in where she is taking us. Now, we’re going to learn about Bailey’s theory of sex changes, or how about spending a lot of time ragging on some transgender activists, scratch that, let’s take a brief interlude into some of the discussions involving the genetic basis of rape, no wait, let’s talk about Napoleon Chagnon and the Yanomamö and Patrick Tierney for awhile, oh, I know, let’s talk about pediatric treatment for sexual ambiguity and one single player in that arena, and AT, AT, AT. While this is a fine authorial choice to make, I don’t necessarily think it was the best one. The book doesn’t read like a scholarly non-fiction book, it sounds more like a really well done blog. And if that’s what Dreger was going for, she nailed it. And if that’s what you’re looking for, this book might be right up your ally. But for me, a person looking for a thesis to be expounded upon and supported by coherent evidence, this isn't that book. 4. Let’s do the time (and place) warp again Given the ATA and a structure that feels very improvised, Dreger has a terrible habit of jumping in time and place both through people’s interviews, her recollections, and the overall narrative structure. One example of this chosen at random can be seen over the course of about half a dozen pages around the middle of the book (ARC 167-173) where Dreger has us going from Cleveland where she interviewed an Italian Catholic priest about a University of Michigan anthropologist and his accuser's adventures in Venezuela to Pittsburgh to interview a university anthropologist about the University of Michigan anthropologist’s accuser to a non-place a few months earlier where she describes waiting for and then ultimately receiving an email from a physician about his father who was a physician that worked with yet another anthropologist who had previously told his son a story long ago about how he (the father) had convinced the yet another anthropologist not to perform quasi-eugenic experiments on the Yanomamo that the son (who sent the email) had told the university anthropologist who in turn tried to use it to vindicate the what appears to be mostly fabricated story by the previously mentioned accuser about the previously accused anthropologist, though our author then tries to tell us about how she tried to tell the university anthropologist of the email she got from the physician's physician son that actually undermines the original interview because of a new understanding said son has of said father, before hesitating to knock on the door of the parents of the accuser of the University of Michigan anthropologist who the university anthropologist tried to defend with the physician’s physician son’s interview that he, the physician’s physician’s son, ultimately withdraws support for, then driving across Ohio back to Michigan before taking a short break from the project she’s telling us about to take a train from New York to Philadelphia to look at the archives of the yet another anthropologist that included correspondence between the University of Michigan anthropologist and his wife that kindled memories in our author of an interview she had told us about earlier that included a story of memories recounted by that anthropologist in his kitchen in Traverse City, Michigan about wanting to save on postage. Now, we can’t pretend this doesn’t happen. Or that it doesn’t happen constantly throughout the book. Dreger does this frequently and with abandon. If your mind is in the least bit a wanderlust you’re going to have a hard time following what’s going on during certain sections of the book. 5. Phrases the author uses that accidentally describe the book itself “[E]xplicitly supportive of gay and transgender rights [...] – but [...] it had some truly obnoxious parts in it. Granted, they amounted to just a few lines, but they grated.” (69) “The writer then went on to talk about herself.” (77) “Every clever trick in the book – juxtaposing events in misleading ways, ignoring contrary evidence, working the rhetoric, and using anonymity whenever convenient” (100) “But simpler stories of good and evil sell better.” (115) “Make people understand the difference between a self-serving personal narrative and an empirical study that had undergone rigorous peer review.” (135) “I didn’t know and couldn’t know.” (163) “[M]ost people want simple stories of male and female, nature and nurture, good and evil.” (189) 6. We are told to believe many things we are and are not shown One the worst things this book is guilty of is appearing to assume the reader already agrees with its premise and most of its details. This does not read like a book that is trying to convince an audience of something, but of catering to an audience that is already in agreement. Again, an authorial choice that is not mine to make, but I can’t help feeling it detracts from some of the power the book might otherwise have. When you precede with the assumption that you don’t need to make your case convincingly, merely exhaustively, then you are liable to be lazy with your reasoning and thus weak with your conclusions. Consider a few examples. “I remember bells going off when I ran across one news report of conjoined infant sisters from Guatemala; a UCLA surgeon told a reporter that when he made the final cut that separated them, he announced to his team in the OR, ‘We now have two weddings to go to.’ Hello. Happy weddings as a measure of whether the medical intervention was justified? That sounded very familiar.” – Dreger puts us the readers in a position where we either already get/buy into her position from the get go and we’re just a happy choir hearing a ‘very familiar’ homily or we don’t already get/buy into her position from the get go and we might take a kind of umbrage with how she represents this story. Does she really think the doctor decided to separate conjoined twins for marriage as the medical reason? Do you think the parents of these girls really had only sex on the brain in making that decision? Sure, a factor, sure, I’ll get/buy into. Sure. But self-reliance, independence, the ability to live a life without burdening or being a burden to your own literal flesh and blood? All of the nuance, all of the life, all of the color from that vignette is drained away. I understand that many conjoined twins live healthy happy lives with their condition and that separation is not always the best course of treatment. But how is a parent to know? How are any of us to know? This is a hard part in anybody’s life and we need to recognize that, not just presume we know what’s right for everyone involved and quietly, smugly, sit self-assured. “One of his doctors was suggesting he get a ‘sex change’ so that he could be a woman and have a baby. I knew just how badly that doc wanted that publication.” At no point in the paragraph that sentence ends did she provide even one clue as to why that would be the doctor’s motivation. Several paragraphs before she talks about a “Beth Lawrence” who discovered that a doctor of hers had published an article about her without her permission. I assume Dreger is trying tie these two points together with a thematic bridge, but without support it can’t stand. These are entirely different sets of people at entirely different points in their lives, and there is no way we can realistically take Dreger’s nearly two decade’s old report of a patient’s retelling of a doctor’s suggestion as evidence of “how badly that doc wanted that publication." “Both problems arise a single cause [sic ARC]: a heterosexist medical establishment determined to retain control over who gets to be what sex.” One of the problems with this sort of language is that it talks about the forest by not considering any real trees. Does anyone think that there are real people out there (those that compose the “heterosexist medical establishment”) who are convinced they have and are motivated to “retain control” over the sex/gender of others. Does the author really believe someone might go to bed dreaming this thought and might wake up thinking of how to implement it? Furthermore, it’s a one-dimensional straw man. Either she must think that this is a shared set of thoughts between many people who compose this group or that it is some emergent behavior from some underlying set of beliefs manifesting itself in a larger group dynamic. (She could, of course, believe in some combination of both.) But she has not provided any reasons for why we as the readers should take up this position. There’s a point in the book where Dreger tries to explain/defend what she presents as Bailey’s stance on “instances where we might not find it unethical for someone to have sex with a person who happened to be a subject in his or her research project.” She states how she “found his argument initially startling but ultimately convincing.” Great. She’s presenting us with a time where she changed her mind through logic/reason/thinking it through thoroughly. She can now present the case and convince us. But what she offers is hackneyed and unchallenging. We are told to believe a lot of conclusions she makes without really being given evidence of their validity. For a book that purports to support a scientific approach to things, this book is very underwhelming in this regard. 7. Gossip and character assassination One of the things I find most unlikable about the book is the gossipy character-assassination tone of the whole thing. To be clear, I have not a single dog in any of the fights Dreger has decided to tell us about. I have no stake in anyone’s reputation and I honestly don't care if the people Dreger decides to attack are truly as terrible as she makes them out to be. That’s fine. There are terrible people out there. And you can tell us all about them. That’s fine. My problem lies when the trivial fails to account for the contextual. One example from the book I think will suffice to illustrate my point. In the quote that follows, Dreger is talking about a transgender activist who is also an electrical engineering professor named Lynn Conway. Apparently Dreger and Conway disagree on a few things about transgender activism and have had a heated/contentious history. “In fact, I now found one prominently featured section of Lynn Conway’s Web site – ‘Photos of Lynn’ – sort of ironically funny. Here was this woman dedicating most of her life, it seemed, to attacking the concept of erotic arousal from the idea of being a woman as the basis for one form of male-to-female transsexualism, while simultaneously putting up – on her university Web site – multiple pictures of herself in a skimpy bikini, shot from various angles. In addition, there were pictures of Professor Conway in miniskirts, in a little black dress, and in her white bridal gown. As if that weren’t enough, Conway gave her measurements (41-32-41) and did not neglect to mention that her hair is light brown/auburn and her eyes are blue. Just your average computer engineering faculty Website, nothing sexual, right?” This is the sort of quote you would expect from a book about “the search for justice in science,” right? No matter. I decided to look into this, mostly because I attend the University of Michigan and the chance to see a professor in some lewd way satisfies a deeply reptilian part of my brain. But if you go to Conway’s website there actually is no link featured, prominently or otherwise, on the front page of lynnconway.com (which points to her ai.eecs.umich.edu website) that gets you to the “Photos of Lynn” link Dreger finds ironically funny. We can actually go look back at the site around the time Dreger claims to have accessed it (July 26, 2014 as specified in her reference) and check the page’s source (via either https://web.archive.org/web/201406280... or https://web.archive.org/web/201408242...) to see if this has changed. There have been no changes that have included or removed the link. In fact, the only way I found to access it (other than through a Google search) was to go through the “Photographs” link sandwiched between links to “Lynn’s Story” and “Hobbies & Homelife.” This link will take you to a list of links of photos that include “Photos of Lynn,” “Photos of Charlie” (I assume her significant other), pictures of their country home, of Lynn and Charlie together, their cats, outdoor recreation, whitewater canoeing, motocross racing, travel, and a wedding. Short of sordid, these are down right domestically tranquil. Yes there’s Lynn in a bikini, yes her measurements are there, but there’s also her cat’s names (Rapunzel, Trixie, Heidi, Skipper, and Tommy), details of her husband’s motorcycle (a Suzuki RM250), and stories about fishing for speckled trout and redfish off Barataria Bay near Grand Isle, Louisiana on Conway’s cousin (Marion) and her husband’s (Kenny) 22 foot, 225 hp fishing boat. I went looking for sultry photos of a professor here at the University of Michigan and instead I find what is ultimately a fleshed out person who likes to do regular boring stuff and talk about it openly. And that’s just on the personal side of the website. There are also lengthy articles on VLSI and reflections on pioneering an IBM supercomputer project. Yes, there is a whole section on trans-advocacy, and yes there’s a whole swath of website dedicated to "An investigation into the publication of J. Michael Bailey's book on transsexualism by the National Academies.” But if one is going to mention content, one should mention context, and endeavor to give the fullest picture possible. This isn’t just a website devoted to besmirching a single book and posting sexy-time pictures. It’s a long, plain, HTML-only, website of a woman who wanted to use Facebook before it was a thing. Dreger does this sort of thing constantly throughout for people she likes and does not like. There is very little in the way of subtlety or nuance. And it’s a shame. [Please read the comments for the rest of the review.]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Alice Dreger is a self-described activist and scholar, with a reverence for truth and evidence-based research. In Galileo's Middle Finger, we get a personal accounting of the intersection of science, activism, and ethics as she has encountered it in her own causes, and her advocacy for others. As a science and medical historian who researches bioethics, her recent work is in the field of intersex persons and their encounters with the medical establishment. The first half of the book speaks to on Alice Dreger is a self-described activist and scholar, with a reverence for truth and evidence-based research. In Galileo's Middle Finger, we get a personal accounting of the intersection of science, activism, and ethics as she has encountered it in her own causes, and her advocacy for others. As a science and medical historian who researches bioethics, her recent work is in the field of intersex persons and their encounters with the medical establishment. The first half of the book speaks to one of these academic controversies, her defense of J. Michael Bailey and his human sexuality research on trandgender persons. Bailey was vilified and his reputation was assassinated by some claims he made in a book (that had research noted, cited, etc). He was accused of being a child abuser by activist groups simply because they did not agree with his research. Dreger follows up months after the controversy "died down" to find the truth of what happened. Unfortunately her attention to the controversy fires things up once again with renewed claims against Bailey and people threatening Dreger herself for even researching it and seeking the truth. Not surprisingly, the outrageous claims made have no base in fact, but the public believed it because one group was screaming louder than the other. Dreger does not let this attention distract her from the quest for truth (there is a little self-aggrandizing here, it's her own book, after all), and she turns this same passion to another case of character/reputation assassination: that of Napoleon Chagnon, the American anthropologist known for his work in Brazil and Venezuela with the Yanamamo people. A popular book came in out in 2000 that accused Chagnon and his co-researchers of horrible crimes - the most heinous claim was spreading measles amongst the people to test out a eugenics theory. Without researching or fact-checking any of these claims, Chagnon lost his reputation, his standing in the national professional organizations, and many colleagues and friends. Surprise - the book made numerous false claims, included dozens of made-up sources. The final chapter includes another of Dreger's own cases, related again to her work with intersex. The book goes into full detail, but it involves a medical researcher with federal and private funding who used certain pharmaceuticals for "off-label" uses, potentially causing great harm to the patients and NOT disclosing this to the patients. While incredibly important, there were a few spots in this section that felt a little "in the weeds" and my interest waivered. The final chapter is a great one - it could likely be published as a standalone essay about the importance of intellectual freedom and public discourse, about the importance of truth, investigative reporting, and the need for evidence-based advocacy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Logan Hughes

    I wanted to like this book -- I really liked One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, and I agree with the general message, which is that, in science, the pursuit of provable, evidence-based truth must be the goal, even when that truth upsets people and overturns their previous ideas about the world; that truth is the purpose of science, not activism or furthering a particular agenda, even one that you see as being very benign / positive / personal / important. I expected the book to I wanted to like this book -- I really liked One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, and I agree with the general message, which is that, in science, the pursuit of provable, evidence-based truth must be the goal, even when that truth upsets people and overturns their previous ideas about the world; that truth is the purpose of science, not activism or furthering a particular agenda, even one that you see as being very benign / positive / personal / important. I expected the book to be an account of several historical or recent situations where science and activism have been pitted against each other and that one or more might feature the author herself, but I didn't expect ALL of them to feature the author herself. It's almost entirely memoir, and as a result, the controversies are explored with insufficient objectivity and too much in-the-weeds detail. I also don't feel that some of the stories support the point as well as Dreger thinks they do. In particular, I'm talking about the longest story in the book, in which Dreger sympathizes with a somewhat awkward, tone-deaf sociologist and author of a book of case studies of transgender women. His book supports a particular framework for thinking about different motivations for transgenderism, and many of the women whom he would consider to fall into a particular category in his framework feel that the label is wrong and does not accurately describe their lived experience. Furthermore, they express a (clearly not unfounded) fear that this label could be easily misconstrued as a justification for further oppression. But Dreger rejects this objection wholly, saying that Truth is the concern of science, not helping or hurting a particular movement or making people feel safe or unsafe. Which, sure, but it feels disingenuous of her to be painting trans women fighting and fearing for their basic rights and bodily safety as the silencing establishment when, in any context except possibly the most liberal of academic environments, it's the opposite of true. Even with that aside, in this instance, I don't even see why this scientist's work is even considered a truth or a fact. Why should the scientist's view of the women's experience be more valid than their own? I would understand if he had uncovered verifiable information, but he didn't; he did some case studies and proposed a theoretical framework. Hardly facts. I get that "Well, that's not my experience" is an unsatisfying and frustrating answer to a question that CAN be answered by data, such as "Are some people taller than others?" But when the question is "What experiences or feelings inform the transgender identity?" then transgender people ARE THE EXPERTS and telling them that they are wrong about their own identities is insulting, patronizing, and infuriating. I don't condone the tactics Dreger describes her detractors employing, such as threats, straw man attacks, and personal attacks against scientists' family members; some of them certainly sound like unpleasant people; but I also think that, in this ideological battle, they are mostly right and the author is mostly wrong, and I came to that conclusion WHILE ONLY READING HER SIDE OF THE STORY. There are good parts of this book; I think the ideas are generally solid, the stories have fascinating moments, and the occasional line caught me off guard with how true and profound it was. The raw material of a good book is here! But, frustratingly, it's hidden beneath poor organization, excruciating detail, and unnecessary sarcasm. Come on, Alice Dreger, you are better than this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    I seem to be unintentionally reading on a theme. We are being lied to and manipulated by people in positions of power, be that a position in politics, science, or any number of other specialty fields, who have personal agendas they are intent on carrying out. It is becoming increasingly easy for these individuals and groups to promote their agendas as technology continues to become more accessible and allows people to connect with each other and spread (dis)information. Our current social climat I seem to be unintentionally reading on a theme. We are being lied to and manipulated by people in positions of power, be that a position in politics, science, or any number of other specialty fields, who have personal agendas they are intent on carrying out. It is becoming increasingly easy for these individuals and groups to promote their agendas as technology continues to become more accessible and allows people to connect with each other and spread (dis)information. Our current social climate that encourages media frenzy and mob mentality is also paving the way for the creation of this false reality. With a limited amount of time and an ever-growing plethora of information, how is an individual person supposed to sort out what is true and what is false when the supposed trustworthy sources have been hijacked by those individuals and groups not concerned with the truth? How can people make critical, time-sensitive decisions when it can takes months and even years to sort out the truth? Having read a number of biographical and autobiographical accounts of scientists across a number of fields, I have come to the conclusion that scientists are worse than teenage girls when it comes to forming cliques, back-biting, and lashing out at each other. If you thought high school was brutal, steer clear of academia. Freshman girls have nothing on scientists. As for the book, if you can set aside that this book has almost nothing to do with what one might conclude based on the title and promotional blurbs, 'Galileo's Middle Finger' provides several eye-opening examples of the types of abuses happening across the board where science meets government meets special interest groups. Unfortunately for the reader, these examples are sandwiched between the aforementioned back-biting and gossip sessions. But, this, better than anything else I can think of, just illustrates what's really going on and drives home the point that these types of things get brutal and messy. Had I read more about the book prior to starting it, I probably would not have picked it up. If I were the type of reader to readily abandon a book instead of being fiercely reluctant to, I probably wouldn't have gotten past page 100. That neither of these things were the case is all the better for me. The book is fascinating for what it is and for the glimpse it provides into the behind-the-scenes workings (and failings) of 'the system.' It also gave me additional insight into the myriad of troubles faced by intersex individuals. My favorite passage from the book came on page 137 of the hardcover edition... "Justice cannot be determined merely by social position. Justice cannot be advanced by letting truth be determined by political goals. Only people like us, with insane amounts of privilege, could ever think it was a good idea to decide what is right before we even know what is true." It is important that we keep fighting to find out what is true and weed out misinformation and outright lies. It is also important to keep in mind that these things are not black and white. There aren't people in white hats (lab coats?) that are good and a different group clad in black that are evil. Many of the evils being carried out are being done so by people who genuinely think they are doing the right thing and they can be the most dangerous of all.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Science ethics and everything on the spectrum from petty academic squabbling to outright (figurative) hit jobs. This book is pretty much guaranteed to make you mad at everyone - including the author - though probably for different reasons. More review later.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Angie Reisetter

    This is mostly a memoir, a memoir of activism by an academic who has found herself on both sides of the divide between activists and scientists. I have to say that the book took me by surprise -- after reading the first couple chapters, I was wondering whether the author of the book blurb had read the book. And I had zeroed in way too much on the Galileo in the title and the cover but... well, he is on the cover and in the title. What was all this about intersex people and transsexuals? I mean, This is mostly a memoir, a memoir of activism by an academic who has found herself on both sides of the divide between activists and scientists. I have to say that the book took me by surprise -- after reading the first couple chapters, I was wondering whether the author of the book blurb had read the book. And I had zeroed in way too much on the Galileo in the title and the cover but... well, he is on the cover and in the title. What was all this about intersex people and transsexuals? I mean, I care a little bit about that, but probably not enough to read a full-length highly passionate book about them and activism for them... But then she got to the heart of the book. When the beliefs of activists and individuals run counter to the science, and these individuals have been terribly ostracized and oppressed and have every right to defend themselves, but then abuse this right by abusing the scientists who are studying them and are essentially advocating for them.... wait, what side should I be on? The science in this book is mostly of sexual identity, since that's Dreger's area of activism. But it touches on other social sciences as well. It's well-written and honest. In describing a moment of incredible optimism and naivete, the author reflects that she was also sick and perhaps high on cough syrup. She also describes her frustration at the reactionary nature of the internet age, a sort of post-investigative-journalism age. Can't we all make sure we get the facts right and not fly off the handle? She struggles with her own identity: if other people are doing crazy things in the name of feminism, do I still want to call myself a feminist? (This is, of course, a question that has to be asked about every label we apply to ourselves.) She asks fantastic questions and makes a real attempt at answering them. They're huge questions, and of course she doesn't find all the answers, but I really enjoyed reading her struggle with them. Given the nature of the content here, this will no doubt be a highly controversial book (that comes as a guarantee if you tackle controversial topics). Not everyone will agree with her point of view. But since she handles the topics well, I believe it will make an excellent topic of conversation for many readers. I got this through Penguin's First to Read program.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    “When you think you're Good fighting Evil, you can continue fighting well past the point that would otherwise count as spent. But Bo and I had come to realize we were not Good fighting Evil. We were dealing with well-intentioned but myopic people who weren't seeing what we couldn't help but see when we took the long view in weighing the evidence.” Reading this book was very eye opening for a non-academic such as myself as I had only the faintest inkling how politicized science can be. The author, “When you think you're Good fighting Evil, you can continue fighting well past the point that would otherwise count as spent. But Bo and I had come to realize we were not Good fighting Evil. We were dealing with well-intentioned but myopic people who weren't seeing what we couldn't help but see when we took the long view in weighing the evidence.” Reading this book was very eye opening for a non-academic such as myself as I had only the faintest inkling how politicized science can be. The author, whose professional degree is in the field of the history and philosophy of science, works as an advocate for people who have or are being subjected to unethical surgical alterations to bring them more in line with what is deemed socially acceptable. According to her research, these sort of surgical alterations have long term detrimental psychological effects and are often performed not for the well being of the individual but instead because of societal attitudes towards human sexuality: “How much of the reaction to babies born (as she was) with ambiguous genitalia is about fear of sex, and how much is about fear of abnormality? I decided to look at conjoined twins, thinking that by studying them I could control historically for sexual attitudes. Silly me! I soon found that conjoined twin babies, like intersex babies, had gotten tangled up in adult sexual phobias. As I researched the history, it became clear that conjoined twin separations, rather than being based on evidence of what would leave the twins best off, had often been based on an adult sexual fear: If you left conjoined twins to grow up conjoined, they might never have sex! Or they might even have sex!” This book details both her work as an activist and her life as the target of activists. In defending the research of a scientist investigating the scientific basis of transgenderism, she became the target of transgender activists herself. This experience set her off on a quest to look into the stories of scientists who had been targeted by activists in the past. She recounts: “I had accidentally stumbled onto something much more surreal – a whole fraternity of beleaguered and bandaged academics who had produced scholarship offensive to one identity group or another and who had consequently been the subject of various forms of shout-downs.” What she discovered was that in their capacity as scientists they saw it as their duty to investigate what is the case while as human beings they understood that what is the case is not necessarily indicative of what ought to be the case: “The story I had been told about Mike Bailey and Craig Palmer [two of the aforementioned scientists] and so many other white straight male scientists accused of producing bad and dangerous findings, the story I had willingly heard as an academic feminist in the humanities, was that these guys were just soldiers of the oppressive establishment against which we good guys had come to fight. They came from old dogma about human nature, we came from progress and social justice, and so we had to win. But here I was faced with the fact that not only were these scientists politically progressive when it came to things like the rights of transgender people and rape victims, they were also willing to look for facts that might get them in hot water. They very much cared about progress in social justice, but they cared first about knowing what was true.” The 'neurosexist' back and forth in the scientific community is a current example of why someone might want to pursue a controversial line of research while having altruistic motives for doing so: sex-specific healthcare . It is true some people may find it offensive to consider that the average differences between individuals with XX chromosomes and individuals with XY chromosomes might be more than superficial but creating an environment where people are afraid to even pursue this line of research for fear of being branded sexist and allowing ideological predispositions to trump empirical data could do a real disservice to roughly half the population. The fourth estate also comes under fire in this book for not fact checking stories before they publish them. There are two reasons for this, one that can be helped (selectively using facts that support your politics while ignoring facts that do not) and one that cannot be helped (many departments in news outlets have been downsized due to the effect the internet has had on print journalism and do not have the financial resources to do as much fact checking as they once did). By the end of the book the author has come full circle, once more entering the fray as an activist, this time campaigning to expose a doctor using a drug called dexamethasone whose long term side effects are unknown on pregnant mothers in the hope that this would offset some of the factors that lead to them having intersex children. By means of a government loophole that essentially boils down to the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, the doctor was (and still is so far as I am aware) able to assure the prospective parents that the drug is both safe and effective while simultaneously drawing funds from the government by filling out paperwork stating that she is running clinical trials of the drug with these women in order to determine whether it actually is safe and effective. The author's conclusion: “....it did end up teaching me the last things I needed to learn from my journey: how badly people want simple stories of male and female, nature and nurture, good and evil; how the internet has gutted the Fourth Estate; how the government is made up of fallible and occasionally disappointing humans; and why, more than ever before, democracies must aggressively protect good research.” I take a fairly libertarian stance when it comes to the personal autonomy of adults but as far as I am concerned, if your brand of activism includes downloading personal pictures of the family members of scientists to use them for your own nefarious purposes, mounting character assassination campaigns that accuse people of things like sodomizing their own children or committing genocide in the jungles of Brazil, leaving anonymous death threats on answering machines, or throwing members of your own identity group under the bus if they say their lived experience agrees with the scientific findings rather than you, you are not the victim, you are the aggressor. Having said that, it is worth keeping in mind that groups are not monolithic entities and it is very easy to associate them in the public mind with loud and obnoxious adherents who are not necessarily representative of the whole. Presumably a vital part of being an evangelical isn't being an immigrant hating, gun toting white nationalist and a vital part of being a feminist isn't being a shrill, man hating harpy? With that in mind, the main takeaway from this book for me is that there are two kinds of activism: a bad kind that consists of demonizing scientists if you don't like the sort of research they are pursuing or if their findings do not align with your political slant and a good kind that consists of working to see that vulnerable people are not exploited by unethical scientific experimentation. As a point of comparison, I read God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science, a book that attempted to give an even handed representation of the relationship between religion and science in the middle ages, at roughly the same time as I read this book. It is very easy to laugh at modern caricatures of people from the middle ages for privileging religious dogma over evidence, forgetting they were firmly embedded in a different time and place and surrounded by an all pervasive culture. The warning implicit in this book is that we are not so different today: people firmly embedded in a time and place, surrounded by a culture that is so all pervasive we don't even notice it much of the time, and entirely capable of privileging our political beliefs over evidence. Some final words from the author: “Somewhere on the crazy journey of the last few years, I stopped laughing at the image of Galileo's mummified middle finger and started thinking of it as a personal talisman. I would contemplate it to remind myself of certain propositions: That the mythical Galileo, a perfect man who could see beyond his own needs and his own psychology, never really lived – that uncomplicated heroes don't exist among the living. That all of us are struggling with the question of who we are. That sometimes people put you under house arrest because they honestly believe it is for the greater good. That it can be very hard in a moment of heated debate to tell who is right – it can take a hundred years and a thousand people to sort it out. As one person trying to get it right, sometimes the best you can do – the most you can do – is point to the sky, turn to the guy next to you, and ask, “Are you seeing what I'm seeing?”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Richardson

    I was gifted this book as part of the Penguin First to Read Program. This non fiction work is the brain child of Alice Dreger a well known historian/activist with the intersex and transgender movements. I discovered that an intersex person has both sets of sexual organs while a transgender person feels they are the wrong sex at birth. Dr. Dreger helped doctors to see that the practice of immediate surgery on babies was not the best option, that it is better to wait and have the patient make the I was gifted this book as part of the Penguin First to Read Program. This non fiction work is the brain child of Alice Dreger a well known historian/activist with the intersex and transgender movements. I discovered that an intersex person has both sets of sexual organs while a transgender person feels they are the wrong sex at birth. Dr. Dreger helped doctors to see that the practice of immediate surgery on babies was not the best option, that it is better to wait and have the patient make the choice to operate or do nothing at all. Lots of intersex people would do nothing at all and would like recognition as a completely new sex. The reference to Galileo’s middle finger is a story told early in the book about the re-burial of Galileo and a worker cutting off his middle finger as a relic which can be seen today in a museum in Italy. When the author saw it, she had a hard time stifling her giggles as the middle finger means something completely different in America. The majority of this book takes on the task of unbiased scientific research and whether it can be achieved in this day of grant money, political polarization and the internet. Dr. Dreger came under the scrutiny of another group of intersex/transgender activists who didn’t like the fact that she looked into their allegations against another professor and his work. She found that they had lied, and spread the lies to others until the man was getting death threats against himself and his children. After her experience, she decided to check out other scientists and researchers who had been discredited to see if the attacks were true or not. What she discovered astounded her. Napoleon Chagnon was a famous anthropologist who studied a tribe called Yanomamo in the Amazon for many years exclusively. Then a man named Freeman wrote a paper attacking his work and accusing him of gross misdeeds. Suddenly his research money disappeared and he retired to Michigan. When Dr. Dregers checked into the allegations she discovered that Mr. Freeman’s witnesses did not say what he said they did, or that he himself was the source of their beliefs. “Freeman succeeded in part because he followed what I had learned is the number-one rule in making shit up. Make it so unbelievable that people have to believe it.” This was just one example in her book, but it’s the one that stuck with me. “Good scholarship had to put the search for truth first and the quest for social justice second.” We need to be truly open-minded and not have a fore gone conclusion on what our research will discover. “But the quest for truth-the quest to understand the world around us-must ultimately be how you enact the good.” Universities today no longer require professors to “publish or perish”, instead they expect you to bring money into the university through grants and contracts. “Our usefulness is not measured by generation of high-quality knowledge but by the volume of grants added to the university economic machine. This means our work is skewed toward the politically safe or, worse, the industrially expedient.” We need to fix this problem and fix it now, before it is too late. I highly recommend this book to anyone who thirsts for knowledge and truth.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Olson

    Alice Dreger writes wryly and ruefully about the intersections of science, ethics, and politics. What could be dry material is instead, in her hands, compulsive reading. Equal parts enlightening, entertaining, and alarming, Galileo's Middle Finger is recommended thinker for all critical thinkers, whether you think you're interested in science or not. Alice Dreger writes wryly and ruefully about the intersections of science, ethics, and politics. What could be dry material is instead, in her hands, compulsive reading. Equal parts enlightening, entertaining, and alarming, Galileo's Middle Finger is recommended thinker for all critical thinkers, whether you think you're interested in science or not.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Graham

    We are doomed.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    I thought this was a fascinating and well-written book, but it wasn't the book I had hoped for. The author starts with a story of medical abuse. She then briefly talks to several researchers who were attacked for their work and end with another story about medical abuse based on poor science. Neither the beginning nor the ending story were particularly interesting to me, because they seem so clear cut. There wasn't any question of what needed to be done to resolve the science and the activism. I I thought this was a fascinating and well-written book, but it wasn't the book I had hoped for. The author starts with a story of medical abuse. She then briefly talks to several researchers who were attacked for their work and end with another story about medical abuse based on poor science. Neither the beginning nor the ending story were particularly interesting to me, because they seem so clear cut. There wasn't any question of what needed to be done to resolve the science and the activism. I do think these stories were very worthwhile. The way intersex children were and sometimes still are being treated is shocking and we must be aware of it in order to change it. And individual scientists who were targets of personal smear campaigns because of their work certainly deserve a platform from which to spread the true story. I also understood why the author would focus on issues relating to gender, sexuality, and identity; this is her field of study. I don't think this meant the story had to be as purely anecdotal as it was. I loved the author's enthusiasm for using science to find the truth and then build an ethical system based on the facts instead of nice, simplistic stories. I only wish I'd seen some of that here. For example, I'm very curious about the number of scientists experiencing personal attacks because of their work and how many of them are in different fields. For example, I would guess that scientists have been personally attacked for controversial research in genetic engineering (a topic I work on) as well. This wasn't a bad book, but in retrospect, I think the stock description did it an injustice. Had this been billed as a memoir about the author's science activism, I probably wouldn't have been disappointed when she failed to more generally address the interaction of science and activism. As long as you go into this with more accurate expectations, it's a book I'd recommend.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Robb Bridson

    Despite many things I found grating (many uses of the word "journey", contemplation of disowning the label "feminist" because some feminists and some institutions did something stupid, sentimentalism toward American democracy, an overhyped and ego-stroking Galileo metaphor) and missing (the market effects on academia and media--particularly sensationalism, the fact that activists mostly fight with normal people while scholars generally ignore them--as in this book for the most part!), this book Despite many things I found grating (many uses of the word "journey", contemplation of disowning the label "feminist" because some feminists and some institutions did something stupid, sentimentalism toward American democracy, an overhyped and ego-stroking Galileo metaphor) and missing (the market effects on academia and media--particularly sensationalism, the fact that activists mostly fight with normal people while scholars generally ignore them--as in this book for the most part!), this book taught me some stuff, made me think, and was a pretty smooth read. I recommend it. I think that in portraying and trying to mediate in the battle between activists and scholars, lamenting the death of good journalism, the author occasionally loses sight that real people exist and that they do not necessarily respond to science. Since activists are primarily out to win the hearts and minds of these real people, of course science is secondary. And, yes, the first think you think when you see a troubling study is "how will my enemies use this?" It's an important question. And one would like to believe-- and I try to live this way in my arguments-- that the remedy is to better explain the science, point to what it DOESN'T say, and show how the enemies are lying, disibgenuous pricks, the offspring of social darwinists and eugenicists. BUT...the problem is the real people. They will always first believe what is convenient for conventional wisdom, what is easiest to understand, what requires the least understanding of the issue at hand. So to the activist, it gets very old explaining to people that some biological foundations for some aspects of gender do not make it okay to ignore evidence of cultural foundations in other areas, of systematic inequality in institutions, etc. And then there is just the problem that we political animals tend to assume political motivations (the author here does it herself when assuming the AAA's assault on Chagnon was about ideology, only later to discover the obvious: that it was typical organizational "cover your ass" politics) and thus we wonder WHY a scientist is obsessed with proving something useful to biological determinism. Curiosity might be the correct answer, but the first thought to the ideologue is a political agenda. "Galileans" like Bailey make such misunderstandings easier because... tonedumb? Gimme a break. He didn't just pick that cover and make a few incendiary comments because he didn't notice the problem. He did it because controversy gains attention. And this leads to another thing concerning real people and also activists. Typically we do not hear about science from scientists. We hear it from journalists and pundits. Just like how some people learned of the rape study via Rush Limbaugh. By the time this gets out, it's over. Primacy is one of the most important things in how people absorb new info. When an ideologue hears that someone is trying to justify rape as a biological imperative enough times, everything he or she reads from then on will take on that color. The true motivations of the scientist will never come out. And come on. You have to admit there were some problems with the logic of that explanation. The attorney in question was twisting the "rape as power" philosophy for the defense. It would be just as easy to twist the "rape as sex" into a defense, as illustrated by the people assuming that is the book's purpose. The author does suggest scientists go on the offense to calm down activists over potential misunderstandings, but I think that leaves out taking the offense against those who might use their work for evil. Unfortunately, and here is me being cynical, I think there is a conflict of interest. The folks who use such research for evil are typically the first to bring it to the public's attention, and the most zealous pushers. Thus the reason activists are so jaded. I think Galileo is the wrong metaphor to lead us tks the upside. I think of William Jennings Bryan, in this case a stand in for the activist, not the scientist. His opposition to the theory of evolution was not the simplistic evangelical theology we see today. He feared it would lead to social darwinism. Years later, liberals, still standing for compassion and the downtrodden, accept the theory of evolution. Gould took a similar response to socio-biology. And sure enough, just as social Darwinists existed, so do those assholes who misuse sociobiology for evil purposes. BUT over time, liberals are getting more comfortable with it, understanding that it doesn't completely override the importance of culture or the importance of individuals. Over time liberalism adapts to science. But, as Keynes said, in the long run, we are all dead. We still have to fight the social darwinists. It would be nice of scientists would help more.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Simone

    I picked this up because Dreger is coming to KU and giving a talk in a few weeks, and I was interested in finding out more about her. Midway through the first chapter it became clear to me that I did know who Alice Dreger is and I did know her writing, since I had read Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex in an undergrad class on science and the body. This book is not a history of Galileo - or a history of scientists across the ages. Instead it is focused and driven by Dreger's own ex I picked this up because Dreger is coming to KU and giving a talk in a few weeks, and I was interested in finding out more about her. Midway through the first chapter it became clear to me that I did know who Alice Dreger is and I did know her writing, since I had read Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex in an undergrad class on science and the body. This book is not a history of Galileo - or a history of scientists across the ages. Instead it is focused and driven by Dreger's own experiences, her research and activism on behalf of inter-sexed individuals, and then her interest in understanding what happens when people advocating for different social causes - broadly - different kinds of identity politics collide with scientific research those groups don't like. It does read almost as a memoir, which I enjoyed, but might throw people who were expecting the book to be something else. To me, this seems like a vital book for anyone interested in truth, justice, identity politics, activism, and science. If those seem like broad groups I mean them to be, this is a book I think everyone should read. I've tried to talk about this book to several people, and it's hard, because many of the situations and arguments are bogged down in understanding various aspects of the medical literature. But don't dismiss it because it seems to "science-y," we need better science, and we also need better reporting and discussion of that science. "Perhaps most troubling is the tendency within some branches of the humanities to portray scholarly quests to understand reality as a quaint or naive, even colonialist and dangerous. Sure, I know: Objectivity is easily desired and impossible to perfectly achieve, and some forms of scholarship will feed oppression, but to treat those who seek a more objective understanding of a problem as fools or de facto criminals is to betray the very idea of an academy of learners. When I run into such academics - people who will ignore and, if necessary, outright reject any act that might challenge their ideology, who declare scientific methodologies "just another way of knowing" - I feel this crazy desire to institute a purge. It smells like fungal rot in the hoof of a plow horse we can't afford to loose. Call me ideological for wanting us all to share a belief in the importance of seeking reliable, verifiable knowledge, but surely that is supposed to be the common value of the learned."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rama

    The society in conflict: Handling academic freedom and political correctness In this book, Northwestern University Professor Alice Dreger tackles an interesting topic of academic freedom and social responsibility. She discusses three cases in particular. First, the work of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon for his long-term ethnographic field work among the Yanomamö, a society of indigenous tribal Amazonians, in which he used unconventional evolutionary theory and genetics to understand social beh The society in conflict: Handling academic freedom and political correctness In this book, Northwestern University Professor Alice Dreger tackles an interesting topic of academic freedom and social responsibility. She discusses three cases in particular. First, the work of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon for his long-term ethnographic field work among the Yanomamö, a society of indigenous tribal Amazonians, in which he used unconventional evolutionary theory and genetics to understand social behavior, especially violence. But he was too quick to offer biological explanations for the propensity to commit violence. Critics said that they were based on some questionable sociobiological methods, and the study was not exhaustive enough to make such key conclusions. In the case of biologist E. O. Wilson, his views on religion and society were criticized as “right-wing.” Wilson says that he is not an atheist and he believes that faith in God and rituals of religion are products of evolution. He argues that they should not be rejected or dismissed, but further investigated to understand their significance. He suggests that scientists and religious leaders have to work together to understand this evolutionary significance of faith. The case of another Northwestern University professor, J. Michael Bailey’s work on transgendered women is subjected to wide criticism both within academia and outside. Professor Dreger discusses this case with the “middle of the road” approach in a non-biased manner respecting the academic freedom of Professor Bailey and the rights of transgendered women he interviewed for his research work. She stresses the importance of rigorous truth seeking in research but the media and the activists also struggle under dire economic and political threats to skew their opinions. In this process, the freedom of speech is hurt deeply and the research findings that are going to be unpopular will have to remain within the confines of the academic world with little use for the society. That would a perilous state to be in.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jafar

    So, this is Dreger’s story: She was an activist for the rights of the transgendered people. All hell broke loose when she backed up a psychologist named J. Michael Bailey who wrote a book in which he claimed that male-to-female sex change is not as simple as the widely-quoted and politically-correct cliché about “a woman tragically trapped in a man’s body,” and sex and eroticism play a major role in it. In other words, it’s not about some abstract identity. This, obviously, did not suite well wi So, this is Dreger’s story: She was an activist for the rights of the transgendered people. All hell broke loose when she backed up a psychologist named J. Michael Bailey who wrote a book in which he claimed that male-to-female sex change is not as simple as the widely-quoted and politically-correct cliché about “a woman tragically trapped in a man’s body,” and sex and eroticism play a major role in it. In other words, it’s not about some abstract identity. This, obviously, did not suite well with the identity-politics crowds who viciously targeted both Bailey and her. Large parts of this book are personal rants and general he-said-she-said-I-said whining and bitching, but there are some interesting bits as well. Dreger goes into other areas where scientific research has run against the creed of the academic/activist left. One other area that she cites as example is rape – which reminded me of when I first heard from another fellow graduate student that “rape is not about sex; it’s about domination and control.” I couldn’t help laughing. My problem was that I was fresh off the boat from another world and not educated in an echo-chamber of leftist academia. It takes a lot of intellectual complacency to uncritically accept drivel like that as truth. Leftists and liberals tend to think of themselves as pro-science, and they accuse conservatives of being anti-science bigots. They have issues like evolution and climate change to cite as examples. But God forbid if a scientist says something that does not agree well with what the armchair radicals in the academia preach about gender and identity politics or human nature!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    Galileo's Middle Finger is a fascinating, passionate, utterly engaging, and very odd book. To explain: Dreger's subject is not Galileo, but a series of stories about contemporary scientific controversies. These cover a range of fields, from pediatrics to sexuality, criminology and anthropology... which does stretch the definition of "science." The three big topics are intersex treatment, Napoleon Chagnon's anthropological studies, and transgender psychology. That might sound abstract, but Dreger Galileo's Middle Finger is a fascinating, passionate, utterly engaging, and very odd book. To explain: Dreger's subject is not Galileo, but a series of stories about contemporary scientific controversies. These cover a range of fields, from pediatrics to sexuality, criminology and anthropology... which does stretch the definition of "science." The three big topics are intersex treatment, Napoleon Chagnon's anthropological studies, and transgender psychology. That might sound abstract, but Dreger writes of them like a detective hot on the trail of mysteries. She also has other writerly tools in play. First, she offers the idea of a "Galilean personality" to characterize some of the scientists. This is a type of researcher who obsessively pursues what they find, damning the consequences, and running into social problems as a result that they have a hard time handling. The other is featuring Dreger herself as a character, and that's where the book becomes strange. Galileo's Middle Finger is really at least one half autobiography. Told in the first person, Dreger is on stage throughout. We learn about her schooling, parents, husband, career, tv habits, moods, politics, and hope in every chapter. Which is fun, at least for me, since I find the author a very engaging person. But it makes the book something other than what it appears to be, which is a work of history of science. The result is a hybrid: autobiography, history, and politics. Politics are tricky in this book. Dreger proudly describes herself as liberal, as a feminist, as an advocate for sexual and gender minorities. She criticizes medical doctors for acting unjustly to preserve stereotypical gender roles (195). At the same time also calls herself politically incorrect, opposes postmodernism (259), and doubts her feminism. Galileo's begins by mentioning the author's parents, who were both pro-life and (otherwise) politically progressive, if not radical. Similarly Dreger will call out a range of opponents or people making mistakes: "Power plays as morality plays, whether by popes or feminists, are just that - plays." (138; italics in original) At times she find institutions protecting themselves from simple defensiveness, as when the American Anthropological Association acted cruelly and dishonestly (in her view) "to save anthropology" from an attack (177). So on the one hand the book feels like a good example of the richness and variety of lived political experience. On the other hand... I wonder if Galileo's tracks to the right. Its emphasis on evidence leads it to criticize the left: "Good scholarship had to put the search for truth first and the quest for social justice second." (136) Its trans politics are sharply attacked by some (trans activists and other progressives) and upheld by others. Here's an example of the debate. I know her call to slow down gender affirmation procedures for children (266) had won opposition. (Personally, I have a hard time assessing this particular point, because of the large amount of psych research involved, not to mention the politics and ferocity of debate.) One way she defends Chagnon is to find him criticized for being too white and stereotypically masculine (175). Her conclusions about the future don't fit easily into political categories. Dreger is critical of the internet as a whole for enabling character assassination. She sees journalism and academia as each declining, and so sees the kind of problems Galileo's identifies as increasing. She calls on us to resist politics and postmodernism in order to pursue evidence and data. A fascinating and compelling book. Recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Galileo’s Middle Finger is a book about tensions between science and activism, as seen in a number of examples from Alice Dreger’s career. I thought it would be interesting to hear from someone who has been on both sides of this divide — the activist pushing back against the scientific/medical establishment as well as the defender of wrongly accused scientists. In addition, I was curious to hear from a free speech advocate who seems to be genuine in her views rather than someone pushing a partic Galileo’s Middle Finger is a book about tensions between science and activism, as seen in a number of examples from Alice Dreger’s career. I thought it would be interesting to hear from someone who has been on both sides of this divide — the activist pushing back against the scientific/medical establishment as well as the defender of wrongly accused scientists. In addition, I was curious to hear from a free speech advocate who seems to be genuine in her views rather than someone pushing a particular agenda (Dreger withdrew from an article about the “intellectual dark web,” for example). Some messages from this book I can get on board with: Strive to make your activism evidence-based, don’t forget that the person on the other side is a human being even if they’ve done bad things, be skeptical of dogmas. I found it interesting (if disturbing) to read about various ways the medical/academic/etc. system can fail rather spectacularly, and it was also useful to see how Dreger’s own activism progressed and led to concrete results during her lifetime. Dreger structures her writing around the recurring theme of Galileo searching for truth yet being persecuted by ideology. However, this analogy seems somewhat misleading to me: Galileo’s ideas threatened the worldview of many of his contemporaries but were not actually harmful to others. By contrast, most of the examples Dreger gives concern cases when science promotes ideas or methods that are perceived as harmful to a vulnerable population. Ideology can certainly come into play here (and is important in some of the examples), but it seems that the more fundamental question is one of ethics. What is the dividing line between searching for and portraying “truth” at all costs and adding reasonable restrictions to avoid collateral damage? After all, few people would argue that anything is permissible for the sake of truth (for example, Nazi-like eugenics experiments are clearly unacceptable). Unfortunately, Dreger mostly sidesteps this angle and instead gives a rather black-and-white portrayal of various controversies depending on her own personal ethics. Additionally, I found many of her judgements confusing and seemingly arbitrary: Having a transgender subject strip naked in front of your class? Implicitly okay. Hosting a live masturbation demonstration in front of your class? Stupid. Having sexual relations with a research subject? Okay after some thought. Not getting informed consent from a patient for participating in a research experiment? Reprehensible. Personally, I consider all of these things inappropriate. (Dreger argues that sexual relations with a research subject isn't always unethical since it's fine for her to write about her own husband, however I think that the power dynamics of the situation in question — a well-known researcher who has written letters of recommendation for surgery for transgender women interacting with a member of this same vulnerable group — are entirely different. For the record, I also think filing an ethics complaint against Dreger for *arguing* this is absurd.) One of the main controversies Dreger discusses is the backlash by some members of the transgender community against a book written by a scientist named Bailey. The book argues, among other things, that transgender women who are not exclusively attracted to men are “autogynephilic” or have a pathological tendency to be sexually aroused by the idea of being a woman. What seems clear from this case is that some of the backlash (by one transgender activist in particular) crossed the line into cyber-bullying and chilling intimidation of anyone who expressed differing views. On the other hand, the actual underlying issue itself seems more complicated. I read Bailey’s book in preparation for Dreger’s and one thing that really struck me was the noticeable lack of justification for his strong absolute claims about trans women’s sexuality. He also kept emphasizing that he believes trans women are lying about their experience, yet the science is presumably at least in part based on interviews with them. While Dreger presents a very rigorous documentation of her emails, I found it disappointing that she does not seem equally critical in probing the actual validity of the science (on the other hand, as an activist in a different situation she did question the methods of a study and noticed a specific place where a bias was introduced). She also omits the historical context of science about vulnerable groups that ended up not being "truth" but rather flawed and biased, yet was accepted based on scientific authority. Dreger believes that the pushback is motivated by ideology, since trans women don’t think it will help their cause to be viewed as having a pathological sexuality. I can certainly see this being part of the story, but I’m skeptical that it is the *whole* truth. Especially given the history of flawed science being used to harm marginalized groups, scientists like Bailey have a certain responsibility to be cautious and to justify their claims, and I would bet that failure on both counts is part of what elicited such a strong response. His brash depiction of trans women as liars (which discredited them from rebutting his blanket claims with their own personal experience) must have only further inflamed the situation. A part of the book I found more compelling concerned Dreger’s activism for intersex rights. One example: Shockingly, loopholes in medical regulations in the United States have apparently allowed a prominent medical professional to tell pregnant women that a treatment aimed at preventing intersexuality in babies at risk for congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is proven safe, while simultaneously receiving grants from the NIH to use these patients to study whether or not it is safe. Dreger argues that this involves risky chemical exposure of fetuses that is motivated not based on health concerns, but rather from pressure to have the babies conform to a two-gender society. The bottom line: Despite its overly black-and-white approach, this book brings up interesting questions about science and activism and is worth reading when taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. I do think less would have been more; Dreger includes a host of examples of controversies across her whole career, not all of which seem to fit cleanly into her apparent message about academic freedom, and this left me mostly confused about what I should be taking from the book. Additional comment: One detail that bothered me was Dreger’s description of an activist as tacitly autogynephilic based on some photos on her website of herself in a bikini (and in a wedding dress?). Not only is Dreger unqualified to diagnose someone, but this seems like a pretty big leap of logic. If I had spent my whole life getting expensive operations to get the body I wanted, all the while battling discrimination from people who tell me I’m “not a real woman,” I could definitely see myself showing off a result I was pleased with. I don’t think it’s at all obvious that this implies anything about her sexuality.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Wong

    I knew very little about this book when I bought it but the cover seemed interesting. It IS an interesting read -- a historian activist (the author) trying her best to look into fraudulent claims on the work of various scientists by other social activists. Starting off with the concerns related to intersex births/births of infants with ambiguous genitalia, to the social-anthropologist who was wrongly reported of abusing his research subjects (the Yanomano people in South America) to what seems l I knew very little about this book when I bought it but the cover seemed interesting. It IS an interesting read -- a historian activist (the author) trying her best to look into fraudulent claims on the work of various scientists by other social activists. Starting off with the concerns related to intersex births/births of infants with ambiguous genitalia, to the social-anthropologist who was wrongly reported of abusing his research subjects (the Yanomano people in South America) to what seems like an unethical pediatric researcher getting research grants to investigate the use of dexamethasone in pregnant women. Why do these myths get propagated? This "fake news" in the science literature is disturbing and the implication is that it happens more than you might expect. I certainly learned a lot from reading this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Keith Akers

    This is an important book, and yet I cannot quite identify its real subject matter. Basically, it’s about science and how science operates today, but this is illustrated through unusually detailed examples from her own life. Alice Dreger is involved in research concerning sexuality, but other areas are mentioned as well. She uncovers a lot of outrageous things going on in science — mostly lying, covering up the evidence or making up evidence, and heartless manipulation of other people. She has s This is an important book, and yet I cannot quite identify its real subject matter. Basically, it’s about science and how science operates today, but this is illustrated through unusually detailed examples from her own life. Alice Dreger is involved in research concerning sexuality, but other areas are mentioned as well. She uncovers a lot of outrageous things going on in science — mostly lying, covering up the evidence or making up evidence, and heartless manipulation of other people. She has struggled for “justice in science,” which means paying attention to the actual evidence. (Telling the truth is always a plus, too.) But then as she tries to uncover the truth, she herself becomes the target of attacks. The book left me angry, but without a clear direction for further action other than to keep asking questions. Because of the detail, if you don’t read the book carefully, you can lose track of who said what, and what so-and-so was responding to. I am left thinking that I should check the footnotes before writing a review! (I haven’t.) One of the key criticisms that she makes of how science works today, is that people don’t check the footnotes. When she starts checking the footnotes, she often finds that things are very different from how they are presented. It is very easy to see how large numbers of people could be misled by false statements made, and then distributed around the internet, with the appropriate citations, which can then be cited second-hand ad infinitum. I mean, do we all have to be experts here? Does everyone have to check the footnotes? Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is its first three chapters, which discuss the scientific research on intersex people ("hermaphrodites") and transgender people. I found out a lot of things that previously really were pretty obscure to me; the book and her web site (AliceDreger.com) have more information. The rest of the book covers other (often sexuality-related) controversies in which similar problems emerge, namely people either bypassing or deliberately contravening the evidence, and lying to others (including their patients or research subjects!) about it. There is one key question which I really feel she should have at least mentioned, and that’s just old-fashioned mental illness. A lot of the people she has to contend with are clearly mentally ill. They are just making stuff up out of thin air. They may not be full-blown sociopaths, but there is something very wrong here that transcends ordinary greed or ambition. I have seen similar examples in my own life (in non-science settings). The phenomena she describes are not specific to science, they are endemic to society at large. It’s just that when they occur in the scientific arena, it affects the whole society’s perception of what reality is. So what is this book about, really? Is it about “justice in science” (the official topic), or is it sort of a memoir-in-progress of a really interesting person? I don’t mean this as a criticism — this book has plenty of material already! I’m just asking. One thing it ISN’T about is Galileo’s middle finger, which is mentioned only twice in the book, once at the beginning and once at the end. It apparently also isn’t about science and society, or mentally ill people in science, or how people make judgments in areas that are not their specialty — although all of these topics are touched upon. I feel that the author hasn’t quite found her topic yet. This book prompts a lot of further questions, so I hope we haven’t heard the last from her.

  20. 5 out of 5

    nostalgebraist

    A popular account of several controversies involving science and activism which Alice Dreger has been involved in. Dreger tries to link these controversies together via a central theme about how truth and justice need one another, but she does so in a confused way and some of the specific cases fit the theme very poorly. Dreger's discussion of Maria New's unethical research alone makes the book at least somewhat valuable. I had not known about New, and Dreger has done important detective work on A popular account of several controversies involving science and activism which Alice Dreger has been involved in. Dreger tries to link these controversies together via a central theme about how truth and justice need one another, but she does so in a confused way and some of the specific cases fit the theme very poorly. Dreger's discussion of Maria New's unethical research alone makes the book at least somewhat valuable. I had not known about New, and Dreger has done important detective work on her transgressions, turning up some shocking and horrifying stuff. (For some reason, Dreger puts this material at the end of the book.) But even this is somewhat superfluous, since one can already read about all this in a very readable open-access journal article by Dreger and others. In fact, virtually all of the text in Galileo's Middle Finger consists of rewrites and expansions of (already quite accessible) journal articles by Dreger: the other two can be found here (about Michael Bailey) and here (about Napoleon Chagnon). The book provides a much more personal, narrative perspective, showing what it was like for Dreger to investigate these controversies -- which some people may find interesting -- but her attempt to draw broader conclusions from the conjunction of the three is a failure. (In the case of the Bailey controversy, the book reveals how little thought Dreger has put into the issue in the seven years since her original article was published; the original article received many serious critiques, and there is no evidence in GMF that these have made any impact on her, or that she believes she has a responsibility to acknowledge their existence.) I made a tumblr post earlier today stating some of my thoughts about the book, and this "review" is largely a wrapper for a link to that post.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Julie Salinas

    It took me a while to read this book because I would stop and mull it over and I wanted to absorb several messages: 1, Not everyone wants to listen to the truth because it hurts them and they will respond by trying to kill the messenger.2 there are people who will not back down in the face of adversity even though it will bruise them because they truly believe in what the evidence tells them. 3. We have lost the power the media has to keep people honest as the mediums for news has changed. Perso It took me a while to read this book because I would stop and mull it over and I wanted to absorb several messages: 1, Not everyone wants to listen to the truth because it hurts them and they will respond by trying to kill the messenger.2 there are people who will not back down in the face of adversity even though it will bruise them because they truly believe in what the evidence tells them. 3. We have lost the power the media has to keep people honest as the mediums for news has changed. Personally I read and listen with ingrain doubt to most issues presented as fact. After all, I grew up looking at the globe and telling my teacher that the continents were shaped like puzzle pieces, just to be told that they weren't. Years later we learned of continental drift. It's nice to know that you may be proven right, but it shouldn't take years to get there. I work in the health care industry and so this story was especially interesting to read. In my own practice as a therapist we are moving to evidence based practice, yet I still work with peers who don't want to change how they treat patients despite what research is telling us. Fortunately our patients aren't hurt by this, they just aren't getting the best care. Alice Dreger has managed to write in an entertaining way, methodically and thoroughly. I received this book from firsttoread.com, penguin books.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alisha Webster

    ohhh this book. I’m not sure where to start. The way it started really caught my attention. I did learn quite a bit about intersex people. I’ve never really looked into the subject, though of course I know they exist. I was disgusted by a lot of the things that happened to not only intersex babies but also male/female babies. A newborn boy had a botched circumcision and they turned him into a girl. A SEX CHANGE before he even knew how to talk. I freaked out about that. (Here is the wiki article ohhh this book. I’m not sure where to start. The way it started really caught my attention. I did learn quite a bit about intersex people. I’ve never really looked into the subject, though of course I know they exist. I was disgusted by a lot of the things that happened to not only intersex babies but also male/female babies. A newborn boy had a botched circumcision and they turned him into a girl. A SEX CHANGE before he even knew how to talk. I freaked out about that. (Here is the wiki article on David Reimer). David Reimer’s story is so disturbing, I actually put the book down for a bit to research him on my own. I couldn’t even IMAGINE doing those things to a child. It’s heartbreaking. Back to the book, I was a little caught off guard by Galileo’s Middle Finger. The Synopsis was not descriptive. This is more of a memoir from the author. I enjoy memoirs occasionally, I just wasn’t expecting it. She is very passionate in what she does, there is no doubt about that. I did feel that the book dragged on and let me uninterested. It wasn’t a horrible book but it wasn’t great – just ‘okay’. This would be a great book for fans of Alice Dreger, as I hear she has some following. Personally, I’ll rate it 3/5

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    This book is a semi-autobiographical tour of the author's campaigns to rectify two wrongs: 1) the harm done to patients by physicians who utilize unnecessary treatment modalities to "correct" intersex conditions based on simplistic concepts of human sexuality; 2) how identity politics has interfered with pure science and scholarship promulgating false ideas and in the process ruining the careers of otherwise deserving practitioners. In both cases these harms are facilitated by weak governing boa This book is a semi-autobiographical tour of the author's campaigns to rectify two wrongs: 1) the harm done to patients by physicians who utilize unnecessary treatment modalities to "correct" intersex conditions based on simplistic concepts of human sexuality; 2) how identity politics has interfered with pure science and scholarship promulgating false ideas and in the process ruining the careers of otherwise deserving practitioners. In both cases these harms are facilitated by weak governing boards, ineffective federal oversight, and sub-standard ability of universities to maintain research standards. The proposed solution, renewed emphasis on evidence and a recommitment to the heroic resolve of scholars like Galileo, seems a bit naive given the cases reviewed in this book. "Facts" will always be political in the squishy sciences (soc., anthro. Etc.) and I was not surprised to see that vindictive ad hominem attacks took precedence over the search for truth in those realms. I was a little more surprised to see this playing out in the less squishy sciences but I suppose I was naive.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Darnell

    I knew the book would be more focused on specific academic conflicts than the title suggested, based on the article, but this went several steps further than I'd expected. Not only does it rarely even attempt to make any broad statements about the relationships between science and ideology, a lot of what's there is unnecessarily personal and downright petty at times. I knew the book would be more focused on specific academic conflicts than the title suggested, based on the article, but this went several steps further than I'd expected. Not only does it rarely even attempt to make any broad statements about the relationships between science and ideology, a lot of what's there is unnecessarily personal and downright petty at times.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Important book about activism, science, ethics and politics. The author is a little self egrandizing at times but this feels like a must read for scientists and activists.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Only a superhuman could have possibly made the number of seemingly endless FOIA requests that Dr. Alice Dreger made during various research activities of hers, and subsequent publication of her book. That she does so with a mischievously saucy mien, turning parts of it into something that reads like a hard-core bodice ripper, is an achievement for a book on science and ethics. And yes, there is corruption at the highest levels of institutional medicine in the US, leading up to and including the Only a superhuman could have possibly made the number of seemingly endless FOIA requests that Dr. Alice Dreger made during various research activities of hers, and subsequent publication of her book. That she does so with a mischievously saucy mien, turning parts of it into something that reads like a hard-core bodice ripper, is an achievement for a book on science and ethics. And yes, there is corruption at the highest levels of institutional medicine in the US, leading up to and including the FDA itself along with its affiliated medical ethics panels. Appalling, even if not surprising. Yet this book isn’t as much about institutional corruption and malfeasance as it is about Dr. Alice Dreger herself (it is very autobiographical in tone, chatty even). So what’s with her? Reading it, one understands that she wants to present herself in a certain way: objective, scientific, empirically-based, and willing to extricate her high-minded self from any old-boys’ (or girls', or trans') network in which she finds herself enmeshed. One might think of her as a Joan of Arc—a saint? A martyr?—in standing up for truth in the Galilean manner that she does (we’re all Harvard students now—and I love the term ‘Galilean’, even though I haven't yet had an occasion to drop it in conversation). She’s not just about justice and science, though, as the title of her book suggests. Figuring out what axe she’s really grinding takes some skills in honing-in. Is she really chopping the rotten core of ethics in research (to paraphrase a chapter title of hers), or battling institutional abuses of power? Some clues: doing a google search on her, earlier today, I find that since the publication of Galileo, as of three days ago, she’s achieved yet even more notoriety—just another benchmark, perhaps, in the career of a sex researcher. As reported by the online Chicago Tribune she resigned her part-time position at Northwestern University over censorship issues. Apparently, Northwestern is concerned about its branding in a way that rankles Dr. Dreger. Specifically , it wants to distance itself from what it regards as her proclivity to what the Tribune calls ‘risqué’ in a recent research article of hers. Resigning, being fired, being declared ‘redundant’, whatever—a perfect occasion for her to flip the bird. I truly hope that she enjoys it as much as she leads us to believe that she might. She’s the kind of person, well, that you just want to be happy. Another unsettling aspect of her work, or really, herself: the third or fourth hit on google today may provide an additional clue. Earlier this spring she tweeted live during her son’s sex ed class at East Lansing High School. The school lets parents attend their kids’ classes, evidently, by prior arrangement. It’s not what she tweeted to her groupies and sexologist colleagues—snippets of mock outrage and prurient indulgence. It’s why. Speaking only from my imagined ‘past experience’ of my mother attending my sex ed class with me, I would have found the event extremely uncomfortable. It would be, in a sense, my mother ‘appropriating’ my classroom experience from me (however silly the subject material might seem at the time, and however moronically it may have been delivered), in an attempt to make it her own, in front of my peers. Making me her research subject, in a sense. And I imagine harboring this feeling even if I had given her my informed consent to attend my class. Of all the classes Dr. Dreger could have attended, presumably, as a serious researcher with academic and street creds, why her son’s? I don’t know the guy, and I can’t speak for him. Imagining myself in his position, though, my thoughts tend towards mortification in the very milieu where town-and-gown kids have to sort themselves out, and during a time when raging hormones don’t make the task any easier. OK—good for him, he’s taking one for his mom’s career. Let’s hope that he has a great peer support group. He’ll need it, because without one, he’s marked. But when your mom shows up to attend your sex ed class, you know that what mom is doing is going to have consequences, real-world ones. And if you’re in ninth grade, for the next three years. And so, really, it’s not her research that’s the issue. Galileo is a great read, yes! You just know, in reading it, that unlike her unfortunate (fortunate?) nemesis Dr. New et al., that Dr. Dreger doesn’t falsify footnotes! And she’s just so, well, folksy and funny about the way she presents so many of the unbelievable coincidences that she has experienced. And so like most sex, it’s just hyped to be better than it really is, or that it needs to be to get the job done. In all fairness, attending your kid’s sex ed class doesn’t seem to have the prestige or allure of fighting Cornell University, the FDA, The American Journal of Bioethics, the American Anthropological Association, the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), and now Northwestern. Several times in the book, she writes almost wistfully about having had her career stymied by individuals out to get her. Now, in her leaving Northwestern, I wonder if she’ll be going for a defamation settlement, although, in her case, I think she has more of a compulsion to flip that bird, and to hell with the consequences. In any case she holds great regard for legal research. I am sure that she will find abundant employment in law as it pertains to sexuality. Or become the new Dr. Laura of our time. Finally, in the order in which they came to me, some of the topical matters of the book include: • Gender identity undermined by PC (Political Correctness) • Repeated instances of The Emperor’s New Clothes, where members of organizations go to extraordinary lengths not to speak (or publish) the naked truth • The elaborate perverse incentives that institutions maintain to reward themselves for unethical, illegal, or immoral behavior • The declining influence of public debate in the press (the Fourth Estate) and its failure to set a high-standard for policy review • The increasing pressure by institutions to seek funding by any means, including illegal or immoral ones • The animosity by some individuals, say one ‘type’ of transsexual in groups like the ISNA, towards other members of the group, eg. ‘homosexually-oriented’ transsexuals to ‘female-oriented’ (autogynephilic) transsexuals • Identity politics and power: the group decides who’s in or out. Once the dividing line is marked out, it becomes nearly impossible to cross

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    Excellent! This book is an excellent telling of scientific misconduct (or lack thereof). While this book is mostly regarding intersex research, there is something here I think every junior research (and lay person) can take away. She details, at least in my view, WHY lay people need to do a better job of understanding the material they are attempting to attack (or save). Those who find themselves reading "only the headline" and reacting to that are who come to mind. I appreciated her input on Dr Excellent! This book is an excellent telling of scientific misconduct (or lack thereof). While this book is mostly regarding intersex research, there is something here I think every junior research (and lay person) can take away. She details, at least in my view, WHY lay people need to do a better job of understanding the material they are attempting to attack (or save). Those who find themselves reading "only the headline" and reacting to that are who come to mind. I appreciated her input on Dr. Chagnon's research with the Yanomami and found that no matter what we as researchers do, SOMEONE will find fault with it - worthy or not. Most of that stems from a society that would rather live in world shielded from the harsh realities of our nature. The final few chapters of the book are where this narrative shines, I believe, as we see Dr. Dreger take a stance from the other side of the aisle (so to speak). Her subsequent defeat by Dr. New and the FDA regarding consent among pregnant women and CAH families was a bit of an eye opener to me regarding the immense bureautic nonsense one must go through. All in all an excellent book and one I may find myself returning to again soon.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa Princessa

    I read this book thanks to the app Blinkist. I don't know a thing about transgender people, to be honest. But I loved "the Danish girl". So, there's that. The key message in this book: When it comes to certain issues, like those surrounding transgenderism, both the traditional medical establishment and progressive activists can be guilty of sticking too adamantly to convenient narratives and ideologies. When this happens, facts get bent out of shape or neglected altogether, and, in the end, this da I read this book thanks to the app Blinkist. I don't know a thing about transgender people, to be honest. But I loved "the Danish girl". So, there's that. The key message in this book: When it comes to certain issues, like those surrounding transgenderism, both the traditional medical establishment and progressive activists can be guilty of sticking too adamantly to convenient narratives and ideologies. When this happens, facts get bent out of shape or neglected altogether, and, in the end, this damages evidence, science and progress in general. Suggested further reading: The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan The Demon-Haunted World (1995) helps the reader distinguish between dangerous pseudoscience and real, hard science by exploring the critical-thinking tools scientists use to make their discoveries. The author argues for science’s place in education and popular culture, and offers his advice on how we can incorporate more critical thought into our society.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jop De

    Interesting and important read. Sometimes scientists do wrong, sometimes activists do. Dreger shows in personal and compelling cases the dilemmas she and colleagues are facing when truth and justice oppose. In particular the scientists that become 'personae non grata' because of their findings are relevant and should be getting more in depth coverage. The book does have some weaknesses though. Not all cases she uses for her argument are as strong, as they initially appear, in particular the Bail Interesting and important read. Sometimes scientists do wrong, sometimes activists do. Dreger shows in personal and compelling cases the dilemmas she and colleagues are facing when truth and justice oppose. In particular the scientists that become 'personae non grata' because of their findings are relevant and should be getting more in depth coverage. The book does have some weaknesses though. Not all cases she uses for her argument are as strong, as they initially appear, in particular the Bailey case, and as one of the other reviewers remarks: she falls prey to simple and attractive black and white, good and evil, hero and vilain thinking. Unfortunately most of these cases are not that simple. That is part of the reason why the book created such a backlash. She would have done a better job showing how complex these matters can be, in stead of picking one side and then fiercefully defending it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Wagner

    As someone who works in academia and sometimes sees the kind of controversies discussed in this book from afar, Alice Dreger's work to pin down the truth is like a breath of fresh air. She's absolutely right that research which touches on sex, identity, and speaking for marginalized groups can become fraught with emotions and theories which have little to do with scientific evidence. It's also a lesson important for the world we live in today, with an internet ecosystem that has little to do wit As someone who works in academia and sometimes sees the kind of controversies discussed in this book from afar, Alice Dreger's work to pin down the truth is like a breath of fresh air. She's absolutely right that research which touches on sex, identity, and speaking for marginalized groups can become fraught with emotions and theories which have little to do with scientific evidence. It's also a lesson important for the world we live in today, with an internet ecosystem that has little to do with facts and almost no patience for the hard work of investigating scientific processes. This is a book that really makes you think about science, truth, and what we know and don't know. It's a book I hope more people read and think about deeply.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.