“science-lite” books that offer superficial analyses of and solutions to social problems or—most disturbing to me—superficial descriptions of scientific work. To me, these include books like Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (a page-turner, but one that left me cold), Jon Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (with its unfortunate concentration on group selection) and The Happiness Hypothesis, David Brooks’s execrable The Social Animal, Nicholas Wade’s The Faith Instinct (funded and vetted by the Templeton Foundation), and all of the books and writing of the now-disgraced Wunderkind Jonah Lehrer.I have similarly criticized some of these books, and also more scholarly books by Pinker and Kahneman.
What these books have in common is a) enormous appeal to the popular mind, especially the part that wants easy answers and doesn’t want to think too hard about science, b) good writing (usually), c) a “self-help” aspect, which promises that you can improve either your life or your business by applying or recognizing a few easily-digestible bits of modern science, and d) annoyingly superficial analyses of difficult problems.
Coyne loses me with:
It’s not that the public can’t understand these things: popular books by Steve Gould and Richard Dawkins aren’t dumbed down, but simply present the complexities of science in wonderful prose. Have a look at Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man if you think readers can’t grasp sophisticated statistical analyses or complex arguments. (Granted, that book has its flaws, but my point remains.)"Flaws" is a gross understatement. Just read the Wikipedia article on The Mismeasure of Man. The book is wrong-headed at every level. It is mainly a polemic against IQ, saying that it suffers the fallacies of "reification" and "ranking", with the proof being some alleged mistakes in skull measurements by 19th century scientists. Gould was wrong about the skulls.
More importantly, his attacks on reification and ranking could be applied to the entire scientific method. His argument is that it is wrong to apply quantitative analysis to data. It is an anti-science book. It is also a dishonest book, as Gould refused to address his errors.
Coyne and his allies belongs to an ideology that seeks to destroy Christian culture and promote their own group. Notice how upset he is when NY Times writers do not toe the line. To conceal their hypocrisy, they must deny group selection and IQ. That is why they praise such a horrible book as Gould's, and praise anti-Christian writers like Pinker and Dawkins.
Update: JayMan's blog has more comments on Pinker and IQ.