NEWS & ITEMS OF INTEREST
Selected recent news stories and other items of interest about Shawn and his work.
Supreme Court brief of Amici Curiae
US Senators Whitehouse, et alia | United States Supreme Court
The War On Science one of five books amici direct the Supreme Court's attention to in their Table of Authorities when arguing against "a long-term effort by regulated industries to hobble independent agencies," Amici share their "strong interest in preserving the separation of powers, while preventing corrupting influences from undermining our democracy."
Have We Entered the Age of the Immoronic?
Ronald W. Pies, MD | Psychiatric Times
Shawn Otto, co-founder and producer of the U.S. Presidential Science Debates and author of The War on Science, recently observed “There seems to be an erosion of the standing and understanding of science and engineering among the public. People seem much more inclined to reject facts and evidence today than in the recent past.”18 Otto notes that anti-science positions are now acceptable in public discourse, in Congress, state legislatures and city councils, in popular culture, and in presidential politics.
NASA Chief Space Station Scientist asks graduates to addresses The War on Science
Jennifer Kent | Nevada Today
"In his compelling book, the War on Science,” Dr. Robinson said, "Shawn Otto summarizes the importance of science in our democracy: 'The more complex the world becomes, the more challenging it is for democracy to function, because it places an increased burden of education and information upon the people-and in the twenty-first century, that includes science education and science reporting.'"
The War on Science: A book review
Sara Miles | Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology
This book is required reading for all who want to understand the causes of current intellectual thought, especially as it relates to science, and how it developed. Some of the ideas Otto develops also help us understand many attitudes toward main-line Christianity. It is not a quick read, but it is a valuable one.
A war on climate science?
Paul Huttner | MPR News
Some see this as a Trump administration war on climate science. Minnesota author Shawn Otto, is husband of state auditor and gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto. He wrote “The War on Science”
Upcoming festivals focus on the intersection of art and science
Jeanne Kolker | Wisconsin State Journal
"What happens when science and technology has grown so complex that it's not possible for a person to be well informed about every issue?" Otto asks. "What does that mean for democracy? It's a really big issue. I think democracy is increasingly facing an existential crisis and we need to talk about it."
Disinformation: the fault of the media?
Isabelle Burgun | Agence Science Presse
The media have been blamed for the recent flood of false news circulating on social networks. They are partly responsible for it, says US essayist Shawn Otto, who is also the co-founder of the US science and policy debate initiative ScienceDebate.org .
Climate Experts Blast New York Times in Open Letter
Dozens of climate experts are calling on The New York Times to reaffirm its dedication to the facts
Initial signers include John Abraham, Michael Ashley, Barbara Mayes Boustead, Jason E. Box, Eric Chivian, Jeffrey Corbin, Andrew Dessler, Cari Ficken, Robert Ficken, Jason Freeman, Lawrence Hamilton, James Hansen, Zeke Hausfather, Katharine Hayhoe, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Joanie Kleypas, Greg Laden, Simon Lewis, Michael E. Mann, James McCarthy, Jerry Melillo, Stephen Mulkey, Dana Nuccitelli, Michael Oppenheimer, Shawn Otto, Henry Pollack, James Powell, Ann Reid, Ben Santer, Stephen Scolnik, Richard, C. J. Somerville, Missy Stults, Kevin E. Trenberth, Michael Umbricht, George Woodwell
A CHANGING POLITICAL CLIMATE SHOULDN’T CHANGE NYT’S DEDICATION TO FACTS
Otto, et al | Climate Facts First
We are deeply concerned about inaccurate and misleading statements about the science of climate change that appeared in Climate of Complete Certainty by Bret Stephens (April 28, 2017). While “alternative facts”, misconceptions, and misrepresentations of climate science are unfortunately widespread in public discussion, we are dismayed that this practice appeared on the editorial page of The New York Times.
Great science conference coming to Copenhagen
Jens Degett | EUSJA
Among the speakers will be Shawn Otto, who has been working for years to get politicians around the world to bridge the "science-democracy gap" by debating the major scientific policy questions and to get journalists to do a better job of covering science.
Votes for Science
Stephen C. Smith | Space KSC
In his 2016 book The War on Science, author Shawn Otto writes, “... an observable fact is a political act that either supports or challenges the current power structure. Every time a scientist makes a factual assertion — Earth goes around the sun, there is such as thing as evolution, humans are causing climate change — it either supports or challenges somebody's vested interests.”
The March for Science and what's at stake for business
Barbara Grady | Green Biz
The best example of where government-funded basic research spawned innovation and jobs, said Shawn Otto, author of War on Science, is the Internet, whose creation was funded by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
March for Science attracts thousands in Berlin
Cyril Hebras | Football Hebdo
"If you want America to succeed, Donald Trump, you can't lead with your brain tied behind your back", said Shawn Otto, author of "The War on Science".
Tens of Thousands March for Science and Against Threats to Climate Research
John Cushman | Inside Climate News
At the Washington event, Trump's record was invoked by speaker Shawn Otto, author of the 2016 book, "The War on Science," and co-founder and producer of the U.S. Presidential Science Debates. The online forum was the only place Trump answered questions on climate and science during the presidential campaign.
Science March: Warum Wissenschafter auf die Straße gehen
Peter Illetschko | Der Standard
Natürlich sind derlei Aussagen von Politikern und Aktivisten nicht neu, wie der Schriftsteller Shawn Otto in seinem Buch The War on Science (Milkweed, 2016) schreibt. Impfgegner gebe es ebenso lange wie Impfungen. Schon 1870 haben Demonstrationen gegen Pockenimpfungen in England stattgefunden.
How the War on Science Is Really Fought
Jay Michaelson | The Daily Beast
As documented in books like Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science and Shawn Otto’s The War on Science, the GOP has fought scientific consensus for decades, on issues ranging from smoking to evolution, drug use to gun policy, pharmaceuticals to climate change.
April is for marches
Sarah Haas | Boulder Weekly
As author of The War on Science Shawn Otto wrote in Scientific American in October 2016, the “emergence of ‘post-fact’ politics has normalized the denial of scientific evidence that conflicts with the political, religious or economic agendas of authority. Much of this denial centers, now somewhat predictably, around climate change — but not all. If there is a single factor to consider as a barometer that evokes all others in this election, it is the candidate’s attitudes toward science.”
Book Review: The War on Science
Shawn Otto’s 2016 book, The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It, does a great job describing how the anti-science movement across the political spectrum in our country – and much of the western world – has gained its strong influence. Just as importantly, it provides strategies to fight back against this problem.
The War on Science wins the MN Book Award
Greg Laden's Blog
Amanda and I were graciously invited by author Shawn Otto and State Auditor and Gubernatorial Hopeful Rebecca Otto to join them at their table. Shawn’s wildly popular, and extremely, increasingly relevant book The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It was up for the award in General Nonfiction.
The Politics of Science Class
Parent Map | Rebecca Hill
A good way to live “science civics” is through a classroom debate. To prepare, students research the context of a particular controversial subject. That prep teaches them the “difference between knowledge- based scientific arguments against versus the anti-science propositions and the nonscientific, emotionally persuasive rhetorical arguments in favor,” writes Otto.
The War on Science (Shawn Otto Interview)
The breakdown in the enlightenment idea of objectivity that modern democracy was founded on is putting democracy itself on a shaky political foundation, allowing authoritarians to find a new legitimacy for their arguments that they are the only way to bring stability, when it is authoritarian attacks on democracy that are producing the instability in the first place.
The Trump Administration’s War on Science
New York Times Editorial Board
“Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people,” President Trump said in his speech to Congress last month, after summoning a list of technological triumphs from America’s past. “Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us,” and “American footprints on distant worlds.”
How to Defeat Those Who are Waging War on Science
President Trump’s decision to constrain and muzzle scientific research signals an important milestone. The War on Science has shifted into high gear. This is a fight for our future, and scientists as well as citizens had better prepare for what is coming next.
The War on Science [book review]
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I found The War on Science to be an excellent and informative book and highly recommend it. Otto has a very good journalistic style to his writing and is obviously well versed in science. The book is also an important one, particularly in today’s political climate, where both the US and Europe are facing looming issues that require science to provide facts in order to inform possible options and solutions.
Trump's war on science
Berria Magazine (France)
In his first weeks, the new president of the United States adopted measures aimed to interfere with or control the work of scientists. But it's not surprising; opposition to science has grown in the last decades due to three major factors, says Shawn Otto.
Trump-l'oeil ... The US policy against science
Luca De Biase (Italy)
Ideology is what led to the " War on Science " says Shawn Otto in his book. An ideology leads education minister candidate Betsy DeVos, billionaire supporter of private schools against public and with her husband believes that schools should teach creationism. A strange battle with the view that science as a kind of "opinion."
How science lost its credibility with the US public and what to do about it
Otto is the co-creator of the Science Debate initiative, which prompted Canadian science debates between regional candidates in Rimouski in 2008, as well as Montreal and Sherbrooke in 2012 and 2015. There was also a science debate between Vancouver Island candidates in Victoria in 2015.
A lesson about deep faith vs. climate change
Jason Cook | Daily Kos
Trying to use Shawn Otto’s story as a base, I say something like, “God gave us brains and the ability to learn about the environment around us, and we'd only have ourselves to blame if we fail to use them to protect the only planet we can live on.”
Republicans, Climate Change, And The New Reality
Joseph A. Palermo | The Huffington Post
“The challenge to authority that science presents,” writes Shawn Otto in The War on Science (2016), “is one of the many reasons why it has flourished in free, democratic societies, and why those same societies have fallen when they have turned their backs on the freedom science requires in favor of authoritarianism.”
Shawn Otto's "The War on Science"
Science Meets Religion
After all, scientists, who have witnessed first-hand the magnificence of the universe and the elegance of the laws that describe it, have a great story to tell, one that could go far to excite the public and unify the world society, which is now so tragically divided between science haves and haves-not, and (needlessly) between science and religion.
My Patient's Sky-High Blood Pressure And 'The War On Science'
David Scales | WBUR
The more important question then becomes: How can such misinformation and misconceptions persist despite the evidence? And what can we – as doctors, as citizens – do to help counter misinformation? Otto suggests engaging individuals, walking through the methods of how we know what we know, emphasizing the scientific process.
Trump: The Most Anti-Science President Ever?
Paul Raeburn | Newsweek
The most substantial record of Trump’s views comes from answers to a questionnaire developed by ScienceDebate.org, a policy group that has been promoting the idea of a science debate among presidential candidates.
What will President Trump mean for science?
Sarah Kaplan | Washington Post
In his response to a question about climate change from ScienceDebate.org, a nonpartisan coalition of science and engineering organizations that advocates for a debate devoted to major issues in science, Trump wrote “there is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change.’ ”
In post-fact society, emotions and ideology increasingly squelch scientific evidence
Marina Schauffler | Portland Press Herald
Author Shawn Otto explains it this way: “If anyone can discover the truth by using reason and science … then no one is naturally closer to the truth than anyone else."
Journalism: Objectivity, False Equivalence, and Extremism
Rich Couch | Let's Talk Books and Politcs
We know that there are any number of partisan sources of news and commentary on all sides of every issue, but we also would hope that there are media sources whose job it is to be objective and call a lie a lie and a fool a fool. There seems to be little of this objectivity to be found in current reporting. Why is that? Shawn Otto addresses this issue from the perspective of reporting on science-related issues, but his thoughts are relevant to journalism in general.
Don't forget what happened the one time Trump and Clinton really debated climate change
Rafi Letzter | Business Insider
Trump and Clinton actually have faced off once about climate policy in a debate. It wasn't televised, or conducted with the candidates sitting in the same room. Instead, it was a write-in debate conducted in September by the site ScienceDebate.org.
Scientists are right to fight for their freedom
Anjana Ahuja | Financial Times
How has it come to this? Shawn Otto, author of The War on Science, a powerful book published this year that analyses the dysfunctional relationship between politics and science, sums it up like this: “Science is never partisan but it is inherently political, because its anti-authoritarian, evidence-based conclusions either confirm or challenge someone’s cherished ideological or economic interests — and that is always political.”
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton need to debate crucial health, science and technology issues
Editorial Board | Kansas City Star
“Taken collectively, these 20 issues have as profound an impact on voters’ lives as the economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values views candidates often share,” said ScienceDebate.org chairman Shawn Otto, organizer of the effort and author of “The War on Science.”
Crusades of the clueless: Who will win the war on science? (book review)
Elisabeth Eaves | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Al-Ghazali’s views prevailed in the Muslim world, and the West took up the torch of science. This story is just one historical example of science denial followed by societal collapse cited by Shawn Otto in his big, bracing battle cry, The War on Science.
U.S. Presidential Candidates Answer ScienceDebate 2016 Questions
News Release | ScienceDebate.org
"It is a truism that to be fair and just, policy decisions should be based on evidence," said Shawn Otto, chair of ScienceDebate and author of The War on Science.
Editorial: Elevate political discourse by talking science
Editorial Board | Des Moines Register
Imagine if the public—and debate moderators—pressured presidential candidates to talk about the country's electrical grid or emerging disease threats instead of abortion and transgender bathrooms. Political discourse would be smarter. And the individuals who seek the highest office in the land might learn a few things, too.
La guerre à la science : le temps de la contre-attaque
Pascal Lapointe | Agence Science-Presse
C’est la thèse développée par le scénariste et auteur américain Shawn Otto dans The War on Science, un ouvrage dont l’ampleur de la recherche historique et politique étonne : 600 pages qui nous font naviguer entre manipulations de l’opinion publique, une culture politicienne et des scientifiques inaptes à la communication.
Why aren't the presidential candidates being asked about science?
Public Radio International
“We have encountered this problem over and over again,” Otto says. “I think it's because most of the political class and most of the political journalists had their last exposure to science in high school and they didn't like it very much. They went into the humanities, they went into journalism or they went into law, and they haven't had to deal with it since, and they're very happy in that world. But that's not the world we're living in anymore.”
It’s Never Too Early to Talk Science on the Campaign Trail
“It was the first time,” said Otto, “that a president went into office with a fully-formed science policy position, ready to hit the ground.” Otto credits this expedited science agenda to his efforts with ScienceDebate, at least partially.
Editorial: Donald Trump’s Lack of Respect for Science Is Alarming
Four years ago in these pages, writer Shawn Otto warned our readers of the danger of a growing antiscience current in American politics. “By turning public opinion away from the antiauthoritarian principles of the nation's founders,” Otto wrote, “the new science denialism is creating an existential crisis like few the country has faced before.”
Here's What Scientists Are Asking the Presidential Candidates
“Mr. Trump has been widely portrayed as a demagogue,” Otto says. “This is his opportunity to show the American public whether or not he is a reasoned individual who cares about these broader issues that impact all voters. To answer these questions is a window into these candidates’ thinking. How much do they rely on evidence? How much do they respect the results of the American scientific enterprise? What is their approach to governing complex issues that have a lot of input from science? Are they going to deny the science or go with the evidence?”
Scientists have 20 burning questions for presidential candidates
Christian Science Monitor
"Taken collectively, these twenty issues have at least as profound an impact on voters' lives as those more frequently covered by journalists, including candidates' views on economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values," said Shawn Otto, the organizer of the effort.
Scientists Call on Presidential Candidates to Address Key Science Issues
"The five top TV news anchors had asked the candidates 2,975 question in 171 different interviews," said Otto. "And out of all of those questions, just six mentioned global warming or climate change. Three questions were about UFOs."
Fifty-Six Prominent Organizations Urge Media To Press Presidential Candidates On Science
Media Matters for America
In his book The War on Science, ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto wrote that in 2008, media figures dismissed his concerns that science policy issues were being overlooked in the presidential race. News directors and editors told Otto that they “thought it was a niche topic, and the public wasn’t interested.” But a 2015 national poll commissioned by ScienceDebate.org and Research!America shows that a large majority of Americans “say it is important that candidates for President and Congress have a basic understanding of the science informing public policy issues.”
U.S. science groups have 20 questions for candidates
“We are encouraging journalists to ask these questions at every opportunity,” says Shawn Otto, the effort’s organizer, who is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “We’re in a new era where science is impacting people more than ever, and candidates will respond to what is on the minds of the public.”
Over 50 leading American nonpartisan organizations call on presidential candidates to address major issues in science, engineering, technology, health and the environment
"Taken collectively, these twenty issues have at least as profound an impact on voters' lives as those more frequently covered by journalists, including candidates' views on economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values," said ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto, organizer of the effort
Book Review: A War Worth Losing
Environmental Health News
The War on Science will have a place on my shelf of essential books on both 21st century science and politics. Shawn Otto may not have written the secret weapon to singlehandedly end the war, but he has done a great service by helping us understand it.
Fighting The War On Science: Author Explains Why We Need To Hold Media Accountable On Climate
MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
Media Matters excerpts from Shawn Otto's speech on C-SPAN making the argument for why we need to hold media accountable for their reporting on climate change and other science-driven policy issues.
Talking Policy: Shawn Otto on Science in Politics
World Policy Journal
The political world finds itself increasingly reliant on knowledge from the scientific community concerning energy, climate change, global trade, agriculture, disease and public health, and more. But at the same time, the scientific community finds itself increasingly isolated from the decision-making process. World Policy Journal sat down with Shawn Otto
The War on Science will change how you see the world
Shawn Otto's new book is a must read.
Every so often a book comes along that changes the way you view the world. The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It by Shawn Otto is one of those rare books. If you care about attacks on climate science and the rise of authoritarianism, if you care about biased media coverage or shake-your-head political tomfoolery, this book is for you.
The battle lines are drawn
In a stirring call to action, an author probes the forces that undermine evidence-based science policy. Scientists can no longer afford to remain sequestered in their laboratories. We need to fight back. “Call a spade a spade, and do it publicly,” Otto urges.
The War On Science: What It Is And How To Win It
Greg Laden | ScienceBlogs
The War on Science is an essential work, a game changer, and probably the most important book you’ll read this year. Read this book now, and act on what you learn from it, for the sake of your own future and the future of our children and their children.
New Book Reveals How “Broken Media” Enables War On Science
Media Matters for America
In his new book The War on Science, science writer and ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto describes the ongoing assault on scientific knowledge that is occurring across public life, from our churches to our courts and classrooms, and from the halls of Congress to the pages of our largest newspapers.
RICHARD CHIN | ST PAUL PIONEER PRESS
Would the office politics of putting on a Renaissance festival be good fodder for a sitcom?
A group of actors, writers and film and TV veterans based in Minnesota think so.
DENISE ROBBINS | MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA
A coalition of prominent scientific organizations and experts is calling for a presidential debate that is focused on today's most pressing science-related topics, including climate change. To come up with potential questions for the candidates, they are turning to the American public. You can submit a question by clicking here.
SHAWN OTTO | THE GUARDIAN
The Republican and Democratic candidates for president both held debates just days after the Paris climate summit, yet the debate moderators didn’t ask a single question about climate science—so Susan, who wants to be a scientist, decided to volunteer with other kids to create what may be the most memorable political ad you’ll see all year.
Nearly 90 Percent Of Americans Think Political Candidates Should Understand Science
NATASHA GEILING | THINK PROGRESS
“Evidence from science is the great equalizer in a democracy,” said Shawn Otto, chair of ScienceDebate.org. “We are living in a new age when science affects every aspect of public policy, and voters want candidates to give science issues like climate change, healthcare, GMO foods, and jobs in the new tech economy a higher priority.”
Voters to Political Candidates: Know Your Science!
JEFFREY KLUGER | TIME
We somehow give them all a pass—at least until now. The recent poll showed agreement again across the partisan spectrum, with 92% of Democrats, 90% of Republicans and 79% of Independents giving the thumbs-up to the idea that understanding science should be a job requirement for politicians.
'Sins of Our Fathers': Fast-paced novel has cinematic beauty, cultural complexity
AMY GOETZMAN | MINNPOST
You can take the screenwriter out of Hollywood, but he’ll still write as if he’s looking through the lens of a camera. Shawn Lawrence Otto’s “Sins of Our Fathers” (Milkweed Editions) has the rapid pacing and dramatic turns of a thriller layered with the cinematic beauty and cultural complexity of Northern Minnesota.
I find it impossible to believe this was Shawn Lawrence Otto's first novel because it was masterfully written. It flows so beautifully that you don't realize you're in the middle of reading's version of rocky river rapids until it's too late.
"Sins of Our Fathers" by Shawn Otto: taut novel of misbehavior and redemption
SALLY JO SORENSON | BLUESTEM PRAIRIE
Otto soon strips away JW's cockiness, swiftly pulls us into a deftly drawn portrait of the grieving banker at his worst moments. In a visit to casino on the way home, JW's dizzying loss of control to a gambling addiction triggered by the loss of his teenaged son in a single-car accident is made vivid and tangible in Otto's hypnotic prose.
SALLY JO SORENSON | BLUESTEM PRAIRIE
Although this is Otto’s first novel, he’s no novice writer. His articles and essays have appeared in national magazines and heard on National Public Radio. He wrote the screenplay and co-produced the 2003 film “House of Sand and Fog,” based on the novel by Andre Dubus III, and has written for several top television and film studios.
CLAIR KIRCH | PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
The champagne corks must have been flying at Shawn Lawrence Otto's home, near the St. Croix River, earlier this month. On November 4, Otto's wife, Rebecca, was re-elected Minnesota's state auditor after a bruising political campaign. A week later, Otto's debut novel, Sins of Our Fathers(Milkweed Editions), starred by PW, had its Minneapolis launch party. We talked to the author--and sometime screenwriter (he wrote the film adaptation of House of Sand and Fog)--about his new novel, managing his wife's campaign and the American Dream.
MARK ATHITAKIS | MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
Otto is nearly as savvy about Ojibwe folkways as he is about Western banking loopholes, and his choice of Indian phrases helps underscore his points about the extent of the divide John tries to straddle. Early on he's taught "gichi-mookomaan" — "Sometimes it means butcher knife, other times it means white man," he's told. And Johnny muses on "biindigodaadiwin" — a kind of détente that existed even among violently opposed tribes.