Galileo’s Middle Finger

“[Yet] from this mess emerged not only a sharp, disruptive scholar but this smart, delightful book…This book’s energizing discovery is that sometimes those wielding such power are not the usual suspects, such as Big Brother or Big Business, but self-appointed guardians of the nonpowerful. In other words: activists…I suspect most readers will find that her witnessing of these wild skirmishes provides a ­splendidly entertaining education in ethics, activism and science.” –  The New York Times’ Editors’ Choice

“Many liberals, after all, have convinced themselves that it’s conservatives who attack science in the name of politics, while they would never do such a thing. Galileo’s Middle Finger corrects this misperception in a rather jarring fashion, and that’s why it’s one of the most important social-science books of 2015.” –  New  York Magazine

“Blending investigative journalism and memoir, a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics chronicles a two-decade career at the intersection of science and social activism. . .  Some researchers have been the target of smear campaigns, and institutions that might provide real fact-checking (universities, the media, journals) allow misleading voices to shape public opinion, medical guidelines, and legal definitions. In this age of disinformation, [Dreger] writes, “the pursuit of evidence is probably the most pressing moral imperative.” – The New Yorker

“In activism as in war, truth is the first casualty. Alice Dreger, herself a truthful activist, exposes some of shameful campaigns of defamation and harassment that have been directed against scientists whose ideas have offended the sensibilities of politicized interest groups. But this book is more than an exposé. Though Dreger is passionate about ideas and principle, she writes with a light and witty touch, and she is a gifted explainer and storyteller.” – Steven Pinker

“Alice Dreger would win a prize for this year’s most gripping novel, except for one thing: her stories are true, and this isn’t a novel.  Instead, it’s an exciting account of complicated good guys and bad guys, and the pursuit of justice.” –  Jared Diamond

“If ever there were a book that showed how democracy requires smart activism and solid data—and how that kind of work can be defeated by moneyed interests, conservative agendas, inept governments, and duplicitous “activists”—this is it. Galileo’s Middle Finger reads like a thriller. The cliché applies: I literally couldn’t put it down. Alice Dreger leaves you wondering what’s going to happen to America if our universities continue to turn into corporate brands afraid of daring research and unpopular ideas about who we are.” –  Dan Savage

“In this important work, Dreger reveals the shocking extent to which some disciplines have been infested by mountebanks, poseurs, and even worse, political activists who put ideology ahead of science.” –  Edward O. Wilson

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK (with a new afterword) 

From the jacket: An impassioned defense of intellectual freedom and a clarion call to intellectual responsibility, Galileo’s Middle Finger presents one American’s eye-opening story of life in the trenches of scientific controversy. For two decades, historian Alice Dreger has led a life of extraordinary engagement, combining activist service to victims of unethical medical research with defense of scientists whose work has outraged identity politics activists. With spirit and wit, Dreger offers in Galileo’s Middle Finger an unforgettable vision of the importance of rigorous truth-seeking in today’s America, where both the free press and free scholarly inquiry struggle under dire economic and political threats.

Galileo’s Middle Finger describes Dreger’s long and harrowing journeys between the two camps for which she felt equal empathy: social justice activists determined to win, and researchers determined to put hard truths before comfort. Ultimately what emerges is a lesson about the intertwining of justice and truth—and a lesson of the importance of responsible scholars and journalists in our fragile democracy.

“…an engrossing volume that is sure to undo any lingering notions that academic debate is the province of empiricists who pledge allegiance to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” –  Chicago Tribune

“…Galileo’s Middle Finger is a disturbing but deeply informative exploration of what happens when liberal scientists and humanitarian activists clash over matters of human identity. Alice Dreger’s long history of evidence-based activism makes her the perfect guide to this territory….Dreger also possesses a keen sense of irony and a sharp wit; these regularly get her into trouble but, in recompense, make her a pleasure to read.” – Human Nature

“…Like her hero Galileo, Dreger believes that the ‘real’ truth does exist and we are all for the worse when we don’t seek it out. It is an argument that deserves more of our attention.” – Forbes

“…an engrossing tale of what it’s like to try to do the right thing and then to be caught up in a tempest of controversy and recrimination with people you’d typically think of as your allies.” – Salon

“Dreger ends this powerful book by calling for her fellow academics to counter the ‘stunningly lazy attitude toward precision and accuracy in many branches of academia’. In her view, chasing grants and churning out papers now take the place of quality and truth.” – Nature

“…a series of gripping detective stories exploring the various blunders of scientists who did not see what was coming when they published, of pusillanimous bureaucrats terrified of their University brand being tarnished, of the politically over-zealous, and the personally affronted. Dreger also fearlessly takes on some outright frauds. She is conspicuously thorough and fair-minded throughout a book that, in places, reads like a thriller. It should be required reading on any science course and will serve partly as a survival manual to those who publish in contentious fields.” – Evolution, Mind, and Behavior

“…questions are raised, chief among them whether certain branches of science have become infected with a pernicious groupthink, the kind that exalts identity and politics over inquiry and evidence — a problem that often occurs, as Dreger puts it, when ‘lliberal hearts bleed so much that brains stop getting enough oxygen.'” – Chronicle of Higher Education

“This book is a love letter to evidence-based research done well….[Dreger shows that] the world has become a more open-minded place because of attention to evidence.” – Distillations (Chemical Heritage Foundation)

“Let us be grateful that there are writers like Dreger who have the wits and the guts to fight for truth.” – Kirkus Reviews

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