Galileo's Middle Finger

Galileo's Middle Finger

Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

Book - 2015
Average Rating:
Rate this:
New York Times Book Review " S mart, delightful... a splendidly entertaining education in ethics, activism and science." Editors's Choice, New York Times Book Review An impassioned defense of intellectual freedom and a clarion call to intellectual responsibility, Galileo's Middle Finger is one American's eye-opening story of life in the trenches of scientific controversy. For two decades, historian Alice Dreger has led a life of extraordinary engagement, combining activist service to victims of unethical medical research with defense of scientists whose work has outraged identity politics activists. With spirit and wit, Dreger offers in Galileo's Middle Finger an unforgettable vision of the importance of rigorous truth seeking in today's America, where both the free press and free scholarly inquiry struggle under dire economic and political threats.This illuminating chronicle begins with Dreger's own research into the treatment of people born intersex (once called hermaphrodites). Realization of the shocking surgical and ethical abuses conducted in the name of "normalizing" intersex children's gender identities moved Dreger to become an internationally recognized patient rights' activist. But even as the intersex rights movement succeeded, Dreger began to realize how some fellow progressive activists were employing lies and personal attacks to silence scientists whose data revealed uncomfortable truths about humans. In researching one such case, Dreger suddenly became the target of just these kinds of attacks.Troubled, she decided to try to understand more-to travel the country to ferret out the truth behind various controversies, to obtain a global view of the nature and costs of these battles. Galileo's Middle Finger describes Dreger's long and harrowing journeys between the two camps for which she felt equal empathy- social justice activists determined to win and researchers determined to put hard truths before comfort. Ultimately what emerges is a lesson about the intertwining of justice and of truth-and a lesson of the importance of responsible scholars and journalists to our fragile democracy. Booklist (starred review) " A crusader in the mold of muckrackers from a century ago , Dreger doesn't try to hide her politics or her agenda. Instead she advocates for change intelligently and passionately. Highly recommended ." Kirkus (starred review) - "Let us be grateful that there are writers like Dreger who have the wits and the guts to fight for truth." Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and The World until Yesterday "Alice Dreger would win a prize for this year's most gripping novel, except for one thing- her stories are true, and this isn't a novel. Instead, it's an exciting account of complicated good guys and bad guys, and the pursuit of justice."
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, ©2015
ISBN: 9781594206085
Branch Call Number: 174.28 DRE 2015
Characteristics: 337 pages ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

OPL_SchamarraS May 11, 2018

So, if your history buff or love to read or learn about cultural, biological and social stances for improvement. This is the book to read! Its funny, full of wit and logical, yet extraordinary insight on scientific controversies that dabble in the realms of ethics in our democracy.

Clinical Medical Ethics and bioethics have intrigued me since the infamous Drug Patent legislation was pushed through by PAI under Brian Mulroney's Conservative reign, and reign Prime Minister Mulroney did. I was not trained in Medical Ethics and Bioethics but wish more CFO's and CEO's in 'Big Pharma' as well as Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers in Government Drug Patent Legislating were? I had just enough training in Statistical Research Methodologies in the Social Sciences to appreciate how brilliant the truly gifted Researchers and Pollsters like Alan Gregg are and were. Its harder than ever to be ethical, not that its ever been easy. The 'Polls' or 'Public Policy research Questionnaires' I helped administer in BC in the late nineties were amongst the most blatantly biased and skewed "research questionnaires" I had ever been a party to.
I believe that these may have been the beginning of the end for the reputations of some Pollsters in BC? They attached their names to these blatantly biased BC Government Research Questionnaires commissioned by successive BC Provincial Governments under Premiers Clark, Campbell, and "Christie". Here in BC the winning of fat, juicy Government political polls under successive NDP & Liberal GOVT's has probably lead to their downfall in terms of any semblance of professional standards? Once a polling organization has lost its credibility its hard to get it back. I cannot recommend Dreger's "Galileo's Middle Finger" strongly enough to anyone interested in becoming a better informed World Citizen. M. Anderson, Surrey BC

Jan 11, 2016

A fine, fine book written in an engaging style and whose early chapters could provide some insights for people interested in advocating.
If the subject matter interests you - the hijacking of scientific findings by ideologies or personal beliefs, I'd highly suggest picking up Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind" as well.
Haidt makes his case through the use of research in psychology and other social sciences, while Dreger's is composed from personal anecdotes and her own research.
Both of these books have very serious things to say about social science research and the dangers of censorship or the calculated manipulation of that research.
Though science may have troubling things to offer about humanity, the very idea of 'troubling' depends on interpretation. For example, in this book, Dreger relates the story of a psychologist who showed (through rigorous research) that victims of Child Sexual Abuse are not *always* psychologically damaged throughout the remainder of their lives. One might suggest that this may be - in spite of the horrific circumstances - a good thing. A healthy, well-adapted person - especially one was was able to rebound from such a grim personal history - is a good thing... right?
Apparently not. As Dreger shows, the research was completely misrepresented and twisted to suggest that it somehow 'supported pedophelia'. One lawmaker in the US even asked Congress to support a resolution condemning the findings, which more or less made the ability to heal from that awful event somehow "wrong".

Read the book.

Highly recommended.

LMcShaneCLE May 09, 2015

Alice Dreger's writing style is very conversational and engaging- it is fun to follow her thought process on the ethics of gender and other medical issues.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SL

To Top