Science Tales review

I’ve just read Science Tales, Darryl Cunningham’s second book.  Cunningham was interviewed on this blog in August 2010.  I’m a big fan of his work, so this isn’t an entirely unbiased review.

Cunningham’s first book, Psychiatric Tales, was about his time working on psychiatric in-patient wards: the experiences he had and the people he met.  The tales are arranged as black and white strips, with a striking and unembellished drawing style.  Words accompany the pictures only sparingly, but are thoughtful and often quite wise.

Science Tales adopts much the same approach.  Cunningham’s artistic technique is recognizably similar, although here strips are in colour and Cunningham liberally uses photographs alongside his line drawings.  The focus is upon scientific ‘lies, hoaxes and scams’ – a broad remit – in one chapter Cunningham patient debunks moon landing conspiracies, another addresses climate change deniers.  The claims of homeopaths, chiropractors and champions of intelligent design are also patiently dismantled.  The chapter about Andrew Wakefield and MMR is particularly good.

‘Science denial’ – the book’s final chapter – is about some people’s willingness to dismiss scientific theory.  This can be a dangerous position, as Thabo Mbeki demonstrated when his denial that HIV causes AIDS prevented thousands of HIV-positive mothers receiving anti-retroviral drugs.  I have a sense that Cunningham really doesn’t get such people; I don’t either, although I’m rather more sympathetic.   I suspect that Cunningham is more of a positivist than me.

From looking at Cunningham’s blog, he’s moving onto history for his next ‘Tales’ book.  I hope he’ll return to science in the future.  Having now dispatched some of the most prominent science hoaxes, I’d like to see where a more esoteric selection might take him.

One Response to “Science Tales review”

  1. Jane E. Smith says:

    My adult son gave me Psychiatric Tales for Christmas. He and I both have bipolar disorder, his combined with OCD. I alternated between long periods of depression broken by brief periods of extreme activity. I asked my son’s pediatrician when he was two if such a young child could be depressed. By age five he was manic; age 10 he was unmanageable due to extreme social anxiety and OCD. I raised 3 other children during this time and battled his father to get him psychiatric help. I began psych meds in my 30′s and took him with me, but his real diagnosis and healing didn’t begin until age 24 with the right doctor, the right meds, and the right diagnoses.

    I read this book cover to cover in one sitting, wiping the tears from my eyes sometimes to see the words. The compassion and understanding the author has for those with brain disorders is evident. Psychiatric Tales stays out on the table and I recommend it frequently.

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