It is with great sadness and regret that I whack Discover for its December feature “25 Greatest Science Books of All-Time.”
First, the list is introduced by biotech’s bad boy Kary Mullis, who after winning the Nobel Prize in 1993 for inventing the polymerase chain reaction bragged about the inspirational powers of LSD and slipped photos of naked girlfriends into his lectures. That’s cool; I’m down with sex and drugs too. But Mullis’s introduction touts one book that promotes ESP and another that valorizes Peter Duesberg, notorious for claiming that the AIDS virus doesn’t cause AIDS. Are my Discover colleagues suggesting that we should take psi-believers and AIDS-doubters seriously?
Then there is the list itself. It starts with Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle and Origin of Species. Can’t argue with
those. But the next five books are by
After that, Discover’s list gets more credible, focusing for the most part on 20th century books that normal humans might actually read rather than admiring from afar. In fact, the Discover list includes books on the “Stevens Greatest Science Books” list that I and others at the Center for Science Writings started compiling last May. Check it out on our website. I honestly, modestly, sincerely believe that our list kicks the ass of Discover’s list. But you be the judge.