Two George Mason University science professors, James Trefil and Robert M. Hazen, have updated and expanded their 1991 book, Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy (Anchor, $ 15, trade paperback) addressing recent claims of advancements in particle physics and biotechnology. Though this is not a review, I can say that this new edition is generally well written, accessible and informative—with one glaring exception so far; they are agnostic on the abortion-related question of whether life begins at conception.
Their premise that one ought to be literate and knowledgeable about basic scientific principles is good and they hold that the universe is knowable, not random and chaotic. Chapters on faith-based assertions—doomsday claims by environmentalists and creationists alike—appear to be unbiased. The authors say they have written a book for the general reader that is equally informative as an introductory high school or college textbook and I’m inclined to agree.
They know we need remedial education. In the introduction, Hazen and Trefil write: “[S]cientists and educators have failed to provide many Americans with the fundamental background knowledge we all need to cope with the complex scientific and technological world of today and tomorrow. The aim of this book is to allow you to acquire that background—to fill in whatever blanks may have been left by your formal education.” With 19 chapters on electricity, atoms, nuclear physics, astronomy, genetics and evolution, and an epilogue, and an index, Science Matters is worth considering.