Galileo's Middle Finger

Galileo's Middle Finger

Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

Book - 2015
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"An investigation of some of the most contentious debates of our time, Galileo's Middle Finger describes Alice Dreger's experiences on the front lines of scientific controversy, where for two decades she has worked as an advocate for victims of unethical research while also defending the right of scientists to pursue challenging research into human identities. Dreger's own attempts to reconcile academic freedom with the pursuit of justice grew out of her research into the treatment of people born intersex (formerly called hermaphrodites). The shocking history of surgical mutilation and ethical abuses conducted in the name of "normalizing" intersex children moved her to become a patient rights' activist. By bringing evidence to physicians and the public, she helped change the medical system. But even as she worked to correct these injustices, Dreger began to witness how some fellow liberal activists, motivated by identity politics, were employing lies and personal attacks to silence scientists whose data revealed inconvenient truths. Troubled, she traveled around the country digging up sources and interviewing the targets of these politically motivated campaigns. Among the subjects she covers in the book are the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, falsely accused in a bestselling book of committing genocide against a South American tribe; the psychologist Michael Bailey, accused of abusing transgender women; and the evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson, accused of fomenting rightwing ideas about human nature. Galileo's Middle Finger describes Dreger's long and harrowing journey back and forth between the two camps for which she felt equal empathy: social justice warriors and researchers determined to put truth before politics"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Penguin Press,, 2015.
ISBN: 9781594206085
Characteristics: 337 pages ; 25 cm

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OPL_SchamarraS May 11, 2018

So, if your history buff or love to read or learn about cultural, biological and social stances for improvement. This is the book to read! Its funny, full of wit and logical, yet extraordinary insight on scientific controversies that dabble in the realms of ethics in our democracy.

Clinical Medical Ethics and bioethics have intrigued me since the infamous Drug Patent legislation was pushed through by PAI under Brian Mulroney's Conservative reign, and reign Prime Minister Mulroney did. I was not trained in Medical Ethics and Bioethics but wish more CFO's and CEO's in 'Big Pharma' as well as Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers in Government Drug Patent Legislating were? I had just enough training in Statistical Research Methodologies in the Social Sciences to appreciate how brilliant the truly gifted Researchers and Pollsters like Alan Gregg are and were. Its harder than ever to be ethical, not that its ever been easy. The 'Polls' or 'Public Policy research Questionnaires' I helped administer in BC in the late nineties were amongst the most blatantly biased and skewed "research questionnaires" I had ever been a party to.
I believe that these may have been the beginning of the end for the reputations of some Pollsters in BC? They attached their names to these blatantly biased BC Government Research Questionnaires commissioned by successive BC Provincial Governments under Premiers Clark, Campbell, and "Christie". Here in BC the winning of fat, juicy Government political polls under successive NDP & Liberal GOVT's has probably lead to their downfall in terms of any semblance of professional standards? Once a polling organization has lost its credibility its hard to get it back. I cannot recommend Dreger's "Galileo's Middle Finger" strongly enough to anyone interested in becoming a better informed World Citizen. M. Anderson, Surrey BC

r
ranXerox
Jan 11, 2016

A fine, fine book written in an engaging style and whose early chapters could provide some insights for people interested in advocating.
If the subject matter interests you - the hijacking of scientific findings by ideologies or personal beliefs, I'd highly suggest picking up Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind" as well.
Haidt makes his case through the use of research in psychology and other social sciences, while Dreger's is composed from personal anecdotes and her own research.
Both of these books have very serious things to say about social science research and the dangers of censorship or the calculated manipulation of that research.
Though science may have troubling things to offer about humanity, the very idea of 'troubling' depends on interpretation. For example, in this book, Dreger relates the story of a psychologist who showed (through rigorous research) that victims of Child Sexual Abuse are not *always* psychologically damaged throughout the remainder of their lives. One might suggest that this may be - in spite of the horrific circumstances - a good thing. A healthy, well-adapted person - especially one was was able to rebound from such a grim personal history - is a good thing... right?
Apparently not. As Dreger shows, the research was completely misrepresented and twisted to suggest that it somehow 'supported pedophelia'. One lawmaker in the US even asked Congress to support a resolution condemning the findings, which more or less made the ability to heal from that awful event somehow "wrong".

Read the book.

Highly recommended.

LMcShaneCLE May 09, 2015

Alice Dreger's writing style is very conversational and engaging- it is fun to follow her thought process on the ethics of gender and other medical issues.

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