An indictment of American science so critical that it seems beyond hope.

THE TRAGEDY OF AMERICAN SCIENCE

FROM TRUMAN TO TRUMP

An angry polemic about how American science has deteriorated catastrophically.

Science historian Conner dates the onset from the 1942-1945 Manhattan project, the first “big science” project in which the government spent massively on developing the atom bomb; after this, science became big business. In a series of grim chapters, the author describes the “corporatization” and militarization of American science. Nutrition science is especially debased. Incompetent research, industry-sponsored hype, bribery, and obliging regulators produce wildly contradictory dietary guidelines. Unsurprisingly, “Coca-Cola Company has been particularly culpable in its efforts to misdirect nutrition science regarding sugar.” With the help of well-paid scientists, tobacco companies held off government action for decades, and fossil fuel industries have successfully adopted their techniques to quash efforts to reduce global warming. Denouncing the “green revolution” in agriculture, Conner points out that it has vastly increased food production but that politics and war—not lack of food—cause famines today. He adds that its costly fertilizer and seed enrich large farmers and impoverish poor ones and that the additional chemicals pollute waterways. Military research is an easy mark because so much is genuinely horrible. It’s old news that during World War II, Nazi and Japanese researchers performed sadistic experiments on prisoners. American leaders welcomed them in the hopes of acquiring their expertise. When it comes to weapons that kill innocents, military researchers display an unnerving lack of sympathy, and civilian superiors, Democrat as well as Republican, tend to go along. The author urges vigorous government regulation independent of corporate influence—a no-brainer but spotty in previous administrations, to say nothing of the current one—and 100% government funding and control of research. Though this was a disaster in the Soviet Union and Mao’s China, Conner gives high marks to Cuba. Many democracies exert far stricter government control, which smacks of socialism, a poisonous word to American ears.

An indictment of American science so critical that it seems beyond hope.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64259-127-9

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Haymarket Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 17

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more