Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green Books Campaign Review: Don't Be Such a Scientist by Randy Olson

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

This book is printed on recycled paper.

"You think too much! You mother F@$#%&* think too much! You're nothing but an arrogant, pointy headed intellectual -- I want you out of my classroom and off the premises in five minutes or I'm calling the police and having you arrested for trespassing." —Hollywood acting teacher to Randy Olson, former-scientist

After nearly a decade on the defensive, the world of science is about to be restored to its rightful place. But is the American public really ready for science? And is the world of science ready for the American public?

Scientists wear ragged clothes, forget to comb their hair, and speak in a language that even they don't understand. Or so people think. Most scientists don't care how they are perceived, but in our media-dominated age, style points count.

Enter Randy Olson. Fifteen years ago, Olson bid farewell to the science world and shipped off to Hollywood ready to change the world. With films like Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus (Tribeca '06, Showtime) and Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy (Outfest '08), he has tried to bridge the cultural divide that has too often left science on the outside looking in.

Now, in his first book, Olson, with a Harvard Ph.D. and formerly a tenured professor of marine biology at the University of New Hampshire, recounts the lessons from his own hilarious-and at times humiliating-evolution from science professor to Hollywood filmmaker. In Don't Be Such a Scientist, he shares the secrets of talking substance in an age of style. The key, he argues, is to stay true to the facts while tapping into something more primordial, more irrational, and ultimately more human.

In a book enlivened by a profane acting teacher who made Olson realize that "nobody wants to watch you think," he offers up serious insights and poignant stories. You'll laugh, you may cry, and as a communicator you'll certainly learn the importance of not only knowing how to fulfill, but also how to arouse.

Received from the publisher for review.

This started out okay with quotes like these:

With the knowledge of science we can solve resource limitations, cure diseases, and make society work happily - but only if people can figure out what in the world scientists are talking about and why they should care.

But this book isn't about making people think scientists are cool. If that's all you're looking for, you should go elsewhere.

The book was obviously intended for scientists. As a civilian myself I found it initially a bit like I might feel attending Comic Con - bemused, but bewildered. The point that turned me completely off the book was the entire section about scientists bitching about the inaccuracies of the An Inconvenient Truth movie. Seriously people? Come on.

Basically, the book just reinforced the idea that scientists do have a holier-than-thou (or just I'm smarter than you) attitude and smirk at the rest of the population.

This one gets two stars. It left me bored and annoyed. The author will probably say that I'm just too stupid to understand it, not being a brilliant scientist and all. The book did enlighten me as to just how much scientists dislike the average person. They really are just like the Temperance Brennan portrayed on Bones. They're essentially inhuman. I cannot recommend the book to the general public, but perhaps the already elitist scientists will find it helpful. Oops, but my opinion doesn't really count since I don't have a doctorate from Harvard. Silly me!

☆☆= Didn't Like It


Serena said...

I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy this book. Thanks for the honest green book review.

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