Introduction to the Book

Scientific advances have transformed the world. However, science can sometimes get things wrong, and at times, disastrously so. Understanding the basis for scientific claims and judging how much confidence we should place in them is essential for individual choice, societal debates, and development of public policy and laws.

We must ask: What is the basis of scientific claims? How much confidence should we put in them? What is defined as science and what is not? This book synthesizes a working definition of science and its properties, as explained through the eyes of a practicing scientist, by integrating advances from philosophy, psychology, history, sociology, and anthropology into a holistic view. Crucial in our political climate, the book fights the myths of science often portrayed to the public. Written for a general audience, it also enables students to better grasp methodologies and helps professional scientists to articulate what they do and why.

“…a marvelously cogent and eminently readable book that explains how to recognize good science and know when to question poor “scientific” conclusions…I would feel much better going to the polls if every voter understood the lessons that Zimring effortlessly communicates”
Brian R. Smith MD, Professor Yale University

Book Cover

Referring to Carl Sagan’s Book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle In the Dark “These two books would be just great on every bookshelf of every scientist or anyone who believes in scientific thinking; that they’re great companion books to each other”
David Schlom, Host of NPR’s podcast Blue Dot (episode 162)

I recommend it to you with great enthusiasm and hope that you will tell others about a wonderfully enriching opportunity to learn about the bases of scientific discovery and its implications for society.
Paul Ness MD, Professor Johns Hopkins University

The message of this extraordinary book is loud and clear: we need a better understanding of science. That it is written by a scientist -- and aimed in part at a scientific audience -- makes the message all the more credible...and urgent. Science may not be perfect, but it is the best hope we've got. Zimring has written an engaging and accessible book on the importance of digging beneath what we think we know about science.
Lee McIntyre, Research Fellow, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University; author of The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience

Professor James C. Zimring

James C. Zimring is a professor of pathology at the University of Virginia. The recipient of many awards for his research and teaching, he is recognized as an international expert in the field of transfusion biology and routinely delivers academic lectures both nationally and internationally.

Praise for the Book

'We live in a world where the discoveries of well-done science are rapidly improving the lives of millions; but at the same time poorly done inquiry that fails to meet the foundational principles of science, even when carried out with all good intentions, can result in harmful false conclusions resulting in wasting of resources, bad results for individuals and bad public policy for nations. Dr. Zimring has produced a marvelously cogent and eminently readable book that explains how to recognize good science and know when to question poor 'scientific' conclusions. Reading this book places scientists and non-scientists on the same playing field when discussing critical issues and making important decisions. I would feel much better going to the polls if every voter understood the lessons that Zimring effortlessly communicates.'

--Brian R. Smith, Yale University, Connecticut

"The message of this extraordinary book is loud and clear: we need a better understanding of science. That it is written by a scientist -- and aimed in part at a scientific audience -- makes the message all the more credible...and urgent. Science may not be perfect, but it is the best hope we've got. Zimring has written an engaging and accessible book on the importance of digging beneath what we think we know about science."

-- Lee McIntyre, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University;
Author of The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience

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