The best scientific method books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about the scientific method and why they recommend each book.

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Science Fictions

By Stuart Ritchie,

Book cover of Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science

“Why most published research findings are false” was a 2005 paper that kicked off a crisis in science about failures to replicate, creating gaping cracks in the bedrock of science. Science Fictions explains this replication crisis and prescribes remedies. The book is written in an entertaining style, which led to its inclusion in the shortlist of the Royal Society Science Book Prize for 2021. Psychology is the poster child for the replication crisis. One of the things I like about genetics is that its findings consistently replicate, beginning with the fundamental finding that about half of the differences between people on psychological traits can be explained by inherited DNA differences.


Who am I?

During my undergraduate studies in psychology, we were never exposed to genetics. In 1970, I began graduate training in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, which was one of the few universities that had a course about genetics in psychology. The course floored me, and I knew right away that I wanted to study genetic influences in psychology. At that time, psychology was generally hostile to the notion of genetic influence. Now, 50 years later, most psychologists recognize the importance of genetics. The DNA revolution is changing everything by making it possible to predict psychological traits using DNA alone. 


I wrote...

Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are

By Robert Plomin,

Book cover of Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are

What is my book about?

What made you the way you are? – your personality, your mental health, and your cognitive abilities. Professor Plomin’s book, Blueprint, is the culmination of his 45 years of research trying to understand the genetic and environmental influences that make us different, our nature and nurture. He is one of the world's top behavioral geneticists who offers a unique, insider's view of the exciting synergies that came from combining genetics and psychology.

In Blueprint, he concludes that inherited DNA differences are the major systematic force, the blueprint, that makes us who we are as individuals. The power to read our DNA blueprint will transform science, society, and how we understand ourselves.

Bad Science

By Ben Goldacre,

Book cover of Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks

This practical, informative, and hugely entertaining book is mainly about the role of journalists, big pharma, “nutrition experts” and others in generating our many false beliefs about medicine and our health. Along the way, though, Goldacre paints a vivid picture of why sloppy, irrational thinking, along with confirmation bias and social bias and framing effects, so deeply infect so much science even before it gets twisted and misreported by outsiders. A goldmine of useful cases and examples, with a simple moral: how much harder it is than it lookseven for those crowned with a doctorate!to think clearly about evidence.


Who am I?

I was once an academic philosopher, but I found it too glamorous and well-paid so I became a novelist and private intellectual mentor instead. I wrote You Are Here because I love what science knows, but an interest in how science knows drew me into the philosophy of science, where a puzzle lurks. Scientists claim that the essence of their craft is captured in a 17th Century formula, “the scientific method”... and in a 20th Century litmus test, “falsifiability.” Philosophers claim that these two ideas are (a) both nonsense and (b) in any case mutually contradictory. So what’s going on? 


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You Are Here: A User's Guide to the Universe

By Richard Farr,

Book cover of You Are Here: A User's Guide to the Universe

What is my book about?

Consider: an ant the size of a blue whale would have viruses the size of ants.

A universe is a terrible thing to waste. I wrote You Are Here because it drives me up the wall when people say lazily that galaxies or planets or protons are “just too big/small/complicated/weird” to imagine. Shouldn’t we try? This very short tourist guide to everything will help you get an imaginative grip on what’s out there by tracking away from the human or one-meter scale in both directions at once: upwards, to geography and astronomy and cosmology, and at the same time downwards or inwards to the ant, the atom, and the quantum.

Do You Believe in Magic?

By Paul A. Offit,

Book cover of Do You Believe in Magic?: Vitamins, Supplements, and All Things Natural: A Look Behind the Curtain

Dr. Offitt invented one of the most important vaccines introduced in recent years, against a common childhood illness rotavirus, that was deadly in developing countries. In this engaging and sometimes very funny book, he takes on the alternative medicine world and makes a strong case for relying on the scientific method. This is a fact-based book you can share to help people assess false claims.

Who am I?

I am a journalist and author who has been lucky enough to follow my curiosity wherever it led – from politics and presidents to climate change and crime. Most of my books explore a theme that fascinates me – the tension between science and religion, faith and reason, that is a defining challenge of our era. I have a deep respect for science, but, like most, an amateur’s understanding of it. The global pandemic has confirmed the need for accessible science writing to help us bring our understanding in line with what’s going on in the labs.


I wrote...

VIRUS: Vaccinations, the CDC and the Hjacking of America’s Response to he Pandemic

By Nina Burleigh,

Book cover of VIRUS: Vaccinations, the CDC and the Hjacking of America’s Response to he Pandemic

What is my book about?

Virus is a short book assessing what went wrong with the government response to the pandemic, what went right with the landmark COVID mRNA vaccine science, and the roots of the culture of conspiracy theories and disregard for expertise that has delayed our national recovery.

Awesome Science Experiments for Kids

By Crystal Chatterton,

Book cover of Awesome Science Experiments for Kids: 100+ Fun STEAM Projects and Why They Work

Your kiddo is excited about science… now what? Science experiments at home don’t have to be hard or hazardous. Chrystal Chatterton’s Awesome Science Experiments uses ordinary household products or items that are very easy to find. The instructions are step by step and simple to follow. Best of all the concepts are, well, real science. Chatterton explains the ideas in understandable but authentic scientific language—no dumbing things down here. Best of all these projects are a lot of fun!

Who am I?

From a girl who defied death to set nearly every aviation record in a rickety bi-plane, to a team of young women who literally invented computer coding with no guidance and very little credit, to a boy who revolutionized chemistry when he used the scientific method to create the color purple from coal tar, I write books about young people who followed their dreams to accomplish amazing things. There’s no reason to wait until you grow up to become a scientist. The books I’ve chosen will inspire your young scientist to explore and invent - right now!


I wrote...

Perkin's Perfect Purple: How a Boy Created Color with Chemistry

By Tami Lewis Brown, Debbie Loren Dunn, Francesca Sanna (illustrator)

Book cover of Perkin's Perfect Purple: How a Boy Created Color with Chemistry

What is my book about?

Before William Perkins’ time, the color purple was reserved for the rich and royal. But in 1856, during his spring break from school, young William experimented on coal tar at a lab he’d set up at home. The result? The first artificial dye in a glorious shade of vivid purple! Before he knew it the whole world was clamoring for Perkin's Perfect Purple—Purple for the People. And a new field of organic chemistry had been born. 

Francesca Sanna’s illustrations, based on historic documents and color tones, practically glow off the page. The endnotes include even more science detail, photographs, a thorough bibliography, and a “colorful” science experiment to do at home. I co-wrote this text with my friend and fellow writer, Debbie Loren Dunn.

Can Your Teen Survive—and Thrive—Without a Smartphone?

By Melanie Hempe,

Book cover of Can Your Teen Survive—and Thrive—Without a Smartphone?

This gem of a book presents the argument that parents should consider delaying giving their children smartphones until the child becomes an adult and has attained certain life skills. A mother of four, former nurse, and founder of ScreenStrong, author Melanie Hempe lived through digital addiction in her own family and is passionate about helping other families avoid her “mistakes”. At the same time she is well-versed in the current scientific literature across a broad array of tech-related topics, and she successfully “walks the talk”: her teens abstain from gaming/social media/smartphone use, but they are far from being socially ostracized - a common fear amongst parents.


Who am I?

I am an integrative child psychiatrist with a special focus on how screen-time detunes the nervous system, causing issues with sleep, mood, focus, and behavior. In fact, technology use is the most underestimated influence of our time; it causes problems whose connections aren’t always obvious, leads to misdiagnosis and overmedication, and wastes resources. I am passionate about helping children and families methodically reverse these changes using screen fast protocols that provide dramatic improvements in functioning and well-being. I speak regularly to parents’ groups, schools, and health providers, and my work has been featured on such outlets as NPR, CNN, NBC Nightly News, Psychology Today, and Good Morning America.


I wrote...

Reset Your Child's Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen

By Victoria Dunckley,

Book cover of Reset Your Child's Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen

What is my book about?

Increasing numbers of parents grapple with children who are acting out without obvious reason. Revved up and irritable, many of these children are diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar illness, autism, tics, or other disorders but don’t respond well to treatment. Based on emerging scientific research and extensive clinical experience, Dr. Dunckley argues that the frequent underlying cause is overstimulation of the nervous system from too much screen time, wreaking havoc on brain chemistry, the body clock, stress hormones, and more.

This book offers a simple intervention that can produce a life-changing shift in brain function. Dr. Dunckley provides hope for parents who feel that their child has been misdiagnosed or inappropriately medicated, by presenting an alternative explanation for their child’s difficulties and a concrete plan for treating them.

Science Fictions

By Stuart Ritchie,

Book cover of Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth

I love how Ritchie starts with a rather wry account, addressed directly to you as a would-be researcher, of the challenges and weirdness you’ll encounter as you launch into your own research. His own research helped sparked recognition of the ‘replication crisis,’ so he’s well placed to tell us about misguided practices and the sometimes wicked deeds of researchers. More happily, he describes how we can return to the sound foundations of good scientific practice. A current term for that is ‘Open Science.’


Who am I?

I gradually shifted my statistics teaching from significance testing—traditional, but bamboozling—to estimation (confidence intervals). I became passionate about advocating this shift. I called estimation ‘the new statistics’ because, although not new, relying on it would, for many researchers, be very new. It’s more informative, makes sense, and is a pleasure to teach and use. I ‘retired’ to write Understanding the New Statistics (2012). That was influential, so I started writing an intro version. Open Science arrived and I realised estimation is exactly what Open Science needs. Robert Calin-Jageman joined me, we developed my draft to include Open Science, and published Introduction to the New Statistics (2017). Enjoy!


I wrote...

Introduction to the New Statistics: Estimation, Open Science, and Beyond

By Geoff Cumming, Robert Calin-Jageman,

Book cover of Introduction to the New Statistics: Estimation, Open Science, and Beyond

What is my book about?

This is the first introductory statistics text to use an estimation approach and explain Open Science from the very start. Estimation helps readers understand effect sizes, confidence intervals, and meta-analysis (‘the new statistics’). It simply makes sense and is a pleasure to teach and use. Open Science practices are new and exciting: They encourage replication and enhance the trustworthiness of research. The book also explains traditional significance testing so students can understand old published research. There are numerous real research examples. The approach is highly visual, to make ideas accessible and memorable. The free ESCI (Exploratory Software for Confidence Intervals) software makes concepts visually vivid and provides calculation and graphing facilities. A second edition, with additional R-based software, is coming in 2023.

Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics

By Robert T. Pennock,

Book cover of Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives

The best book of readings on the controversy between "intelligent design" creationism (which is more intellectually respectable than "young Earth" creationism, the adherents of which believe that every word of the book of Genesis is literally true), and secular thinkers. Essays cover the truth of Darwinist theories, the nature of parents' rights to choose what their children are taught, the Constitutional law of education, the epistemological stance of naturalism as an unchallengeable assumption in scientific method, and various other relevant topics. The essays are generally as clear and jargon-free as it is possible to be, given that their authors are scholars.


Who am I?

While growing up as a budding intellectual, two of my passions were social science (in other words, politics), and natural science, particularly biology. For decades, I thought of those as two unconnected fields of knowledge. I studied politics in my professional capacity as a government professor, and I read nature and wildlife studies as a hobby. Then, one day in 2000, I picked up a copy of a book by Stephen J. Gould, a Harvard paleontologist. It struck me that in every sentence he was combining science and politics. It was an on-the-road-to-Damascus moment. Since then, I have studied and written about the politics of evolution.  


I wrote...

Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution

By David F. Prindle,

Book cover of Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution

What is my book about?

Because of his lucid, accessible writing style, until his death in 2002 Gould was probably the best-known scientist in the country. But he was not only a scientist; he was a passionately committed Leftist activist who infused his scientific writings with political advocacy. I examine and evaluate the way Gould fought the "evolution wars" within the scientific community, while at the same time crusading against the creationist resurgence in American politics. I examine the way his magnetic writing style gave energy to his views, and how he managed to suggest that good science was good politics, and vice-versa. I also evaluate the evidence underlying his scientific claims, in order to decide whether his criticisms of orthodox Darwinism were convincing.

Mind and Nature

By Gregory Bateson,

Book cover of Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity

My all-time favourite ecology book, playfully but rigorously exploring complexity, co-evolution, a living systems language, and knowledge itself. “The major problems in the world,”  Bateson warned, “are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.” In Bateson’s world, all divisions of nature are arbitrary. We only witness relationships, not things in themselves. Bateson links our mental process with evolutionary process and urges ecologists to see those patterns that connect the apparent parts of the whole. 


Who am I?

Rex Weyler is a writer and ecologist. His books include Blood of the Land, a history of indigenous American nations, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; Greenpeace: The Inside Story, a finalist for the BC Book Award and the Shaughnessy-Cohen Award for Political Writing; and The Jesus Sayings, a deconstruction of first-century history, a finalist for the BC Book Award. In the 1970s, Weyler was a co-founder of Greenpeace International and editor of the Greenpeace Chronicles. He served on campaigns to preserve rivers and forests, and to stop whaling, sealing, and toxic dumping.


I wrote...

Greenpeace: The Inside Story

By Rex Weyler,

Book cover of Greenpeace: The Inside Story

What is my book about?

Greenpeace: The Inside Story is the first comprehensive eye-witness account of the human drama behind the creation of the world's largest direct-action environmental group. Greenpeace founder and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Rex Weyler brings us the amazing story of an idea that changed the world, and the adventures, clashes, pitfalls and heroics of the people who fought for it.

The book reveals the roots of ecology and the influence on Greenpeace of legends such as Gandhi, Einstein, Rachel Carson, and Martin Luther King Jr. The story is enhanced through cameo appearances by the CIA, Allen Ginsberg, Bonnie Raitt, Brigitte Bardot, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, The Grateful Dead, Pope Paul VI, Courtney Love, and Richard Nixon.

YOU

By Roger R. Pearman, Michael M. Lombardo, Robert W. Eichinger

Book cover of YOU: Being More Effective in Your MBTI Type

It is the only book in the industry that provides active action tips for each of the sixteen types to enhance their effectiveness at work. Based on decades of research of managers and leaders, the patterns, and tips are focused on the specific challenge of each type.


Who am I?

I have been using and research psychological type for 45 years in my various career roles—director of a university learning center, chief human resources officer, and independent consultant. I’ve yet to find a more practical and useful model for understanding human differences. The constructive use of differences is urgently needed in our age, as well as the goal of type development: making perceptions clearer and judgments more sound.


I wrote...

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just Not You: The Real Meaning of the 16 Personality Types

By Roger R. Pearman, Sarah C. Albritton,

Book cover of I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just Not You: The Real Meaning of the 16 Personality Types

What is my book about?

A practical guide for using personality patterns to understand oneself and others. Tips are provided for working with differences from the arenas of personal development, communication, generational differences, cross-cultural differences, and valuing differences. Additional information on the science and ethical use of personality type is provided.

UFO Sightings

By Robert Sheaffer,

Book cover of UFO Sightings: The Evidence

Skeptical books about UFOs are rare, and this one is a particular treasure. Sheaffer, a Silicon Valley engineer, and amateur astronomer, has been documenting the UFO field since the 1970s, and continues to report on developments via his blog Bad UFOs. This book is an updated and expanded edition of his earlier work called The UFO Verdict of 1981 in which he concluded that "UFOs as real and distinct entities simply do not exist." Forty years on, nothing has emerged to change that conclusion. If you have ever wondered whether UFOs are worth taking seriously (and why scientists do not), then this thoughtful book will provide your answer.

Who am I?

I am an author, editor, lecturer, and sometime broadcaster on astronomy and space. My early interest in the possibilities of extraterrestrial life and interstellar communication led me to write my first books, Worlds Beyond (1975) and Messages from the Stars (1978). This interest also led me to investigate UFO sightings, but I soon realized that their explanation lies in human misperception and not ETs. My investigation and explanation of the famous Rendlesham Forest UFO case of December 1980, widely regarded as one of the top-ten cases worldwide and sometimes known as Britain's Roswell, can be found hereIn conjunction with the outstanding Dutch celestial cartographer Wil Tirion, I have produced two standard observing guides for amateur astronomers. 


I wrote...

Star Tales

By Ian Ridpath,

Book cover of Star Tales

What is my book about?

The history and mythology of the constellations from ancient Greek times to the present. The 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy in the second century AD survived unchanged until the end of the 16th century, when Dutch explorers added 12 new constellations in the southern sky that was below the horizon from Greece. Later astronomers added more constellations to fill in the gaps so that we have ended up with 88 constellations filling the sky from pole to pole.

Star Tales recounts the Greek and Roman myths associated with the 48 original constellations, and tells the story of how the others were added, along with notes on some proposed constellations that fell by the wayside for various reasons. 

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