Several reviews of the book have hit the papers and the blogs today.
James Wilsdon, in the Financial Times, concludes:
The Geek Manifesto is the most compelling, engaging and entertaining account I’ve read of the relationship between science and politics. Henderson ends with a rallying cry for a political culture “that appreciates the power of science as a problem-solving tool and that seeks to exploit its methods of inquiry to resolve the great questions of the day”. Geek or non-geek, this is a manifesto we should all feel able to endorse.
He also makes a few very reasonable points of criticism, chiefly around the book’s concentration on UK politics rather than international dimensions, and the scope there could have been for covering the history and sociology of science and politics in greater breadth.
Both would indeed have added greater breadth to the book, and it would have been nice to cover them more exhaustively. To do so, however, would likely have added a year or more to the writing and publishing timeline, and my editor and I felt it was more important to produce a contemporary, focused book quickly, so as to capture a moment.
Next up is Nick Cohen in the Guardian, who writes:
We are stuck in permanent intellectual decline and I would, if I could, force every politician in the land to read this book and act on Henderson’s conclusion that we need to abolish A-levels and introduce a baccalaureate system that would compel sixth formers to take at least one science subject.
He also takes me to task’ in typically provocative fashion, for “intellectual cowardice” in failing to confront the issue of religion. This, again, was deliberate. In the UK, it is thankfully the case that religious extremism does not generally poison the politics of science, as it does in the US. I thus thought that to “do God” in the book would be a diversion from the central argument. It isn’t, in the UK at least, “anti-science” or religious dogma that is usually the the problem. It is an indifference to science, which I am genuinely optimistic can be overcome.
Jon Butterworth, in his Life and Physics blog for the Guardian,has a different take, musing on what it is to be a geek, and whether or not he is one:
I guess I answered my own question. Yes. For a given value of geek.
Jon’s piece is excellent, focusing on tomorrow’s anti-GM crop protest and the Green party’s implied support for vandalism. As someone who has voted Green, he isn’t impressed:
I may vote for a party or not (or even join or leave one) based on my take on the balance of its attitudes to issues I consider important. This will go way beyond science, but is unlikely to include parties that willfully ignore or destroy evidence on critical issues, since even if I agree with their ideals, they will fail to achieve them if they ignore reality.
This is a sentiment that I hope the Geek Manifesto will encourage. Those of us who appreciate science will of course consider many, many factors when we vote. But we have to make sure science is one of them.
The Times also has a short review (paywall) by Iain Finlayson.
What do they want? The scientific approach to contemporary problems to be adopted as an element in the construction of public policy! When do they want it? When there is sufficient evidence-based, peer-reviewed data! Henderson and his supporters identify a woeful ignorance, not to say wilful misunderstanding, of science by politicians, the media and vested interests.