Lee McIntyre

Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. He is the author of Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior and Post-Truth, both published by the MIT Press.

  • The Scientific Attitude

    The Scientific Attitude

    Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience

    Lee McIntyre

    An argument that what makes science distinctive is its emphasis on evidence and scientists' willingness to change theories on the basis of new evidence.

    Attacks on science have become commonplace. Claims that climate change isn't settled science, that evolution is “only a theory,” and that scientists are conspiring to keep the truth about vaccines from the public are staples of some politicians' rhetorical repertoire. Defenders of science often point to its discoveries (penicillin! relativity!) without explaining exactly why scientific claims are superior. In this book, Lee McIntyre argues that what distinguishes science from its rivals is what he calls “the scientific attitude”—caring about evidence and being willing to change theories on the basis of new evidence. The history of science is littered with theories that were scientific but turned out to be wrong; the scientific attitude reveals why even a failed theory can help us to understand what is special about science. 

    McIntyre offers examples that illustrate both scientific success (a reduction in childbed fever in the nineteenth century) and failure (the flawed “discovery” of cold fusion in the twentieth century). He describes the transformation of medicine from a practice based largely on hunches into a science based on evidence; considers scientific fraud; examines the positions of ideology-driven denialists, pseudoscientists, and “skeptics” who reject scientific findings; and argues that social science, no less than natural science, should embrace the scientific attitude. McIntyre argues that the scientific attitude—the grounding of science in evidence—offers a uniquely powerful tool in the defense of science.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £22.00
  • Post-Truth

    Post-Truth

    Lee McIntyre

    How we arrived in a post-truth era, when “alternative facts” replace actual facts, and feelings have more weight than evidence.

    Are we living in a post-truth world, where “alternative facts” replace actual facts and feelings have more weight than evidence? How did we get here? In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Lee McIntyre traces the development of the post-truth phenomenon from science denial through the rise of “fake news,” from our psychological blind spots to the public's retreat into “information silos.”

    What, exactly, is post-truth? Is it wishful thinking, political spin, mass delusion, bold-faced lying? McIntyre analyzes recent examples—claims about inauguration crowd size, crime statistics, and the popular vote—and finds that post-truth is an assertion of ideological supremacy by which its practitioners try to compel someone to believe something regardless of the evidence. Yet post-truth didn't begin with the 2016 election; the denial of scientific facts about smoking, evolution, vaccines, and climate change offers a road map for more widespread fact denial. Add to this the wired-in cognitive biases that make us feel that our conclusions are based on good reasoning even when they are not, the decline of traditional media and the rise of social media, and the emergence of fake news as a political tool, and we have the ideal conditions for post-truth. McIntyre also argues provocatively that the right wing borrowed from postmodernism—specifically, the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth—in its attacks on science and facts.

    McIntyre argues that we can fight post-truth, and that the first step in fighting post-truth is to understand it.

    • Paperback $15.95 £11.95
  • Dark Ages

    Dark Ages

    The Case for a Science of Human Behavior

    Lee McIntyre

    Why the prejudice against adopting a scientific attitude in the social sciences is creating a new 'Dark Ages' and preventing us from solving the perennial problems of crime, war, and poverty.

    During the Dark Ages, the progress of Western civilization virtually stopped. The knowledge gained by the scholars of the classical age was lost; for nearly 600 years, life was governed by superstitions and fears fueled by ignorance. In this outspoken and forthright book, Lee McIntyre argues that today we are in a new Dark Age—that we are as ignorant of the causes of human behavior as people centuries ago were of the causes of such natural phenomena as disease, famine, and eclipses. We are no further along in our understanding of what causes war, crime, and poverty—and how to end them—than our ancestors. We need, McIntyre says, another scientific revolution; we need the courage to apply a more rigorous methodology to human behavior, to go where the empirical evidence leads us—even if it threatens our cherished religious or political beliefs about human autonomy, race, class, and gender. Resistance to knowledge has always arisen against scientific advance. Today's academics—economists, psychologists, philosophers, and others in the social sciences—stand in the way of a science of human behavior just as clerics attempted to block the Copernican revolution in the 1600s.

    A scientific approach to social science would test hypotheses against the evidence rather than find and use evidence only to affirm a particular theory, as is often the practice in today's social sciences. Drawing lessons from Galileo's conflict with the Catholic church and current debates over the teaching of "creation science," McIntyre argues that what we need most to establish a science of human behavior is the scientific attitude—the willingness to hear what the evidence tells us even if it clashes with religious or political pieties—and the resolve to apply our findings to the creation of a better society.

    • Hardcover $6.75 £5.99
    • Paperback $3.75 £3.99
  • Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science

    Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science

    Michael Martin and Lee McIntyre

    This is the first comprehensive anthology in the philosophy of social science to appear since the late 1960s. Covering all of the major areas in the discipline, it will serve as the standard source for scholarship in the field and could be used as the basis for an entire course. The anthology offers one complete, convenient, and well-chosen selection of readings, plus three specially commissioned articles that encompass the entire range of topics in the field and cover both sides of currently hot debates about explanation, methodological individualism, and the special sciences. The introductions to each section provide a map through the discipline.

    Sections cover Explanation, Prediction, and Laws • Interpretation and Meaning • Rationality • Functional Explanation • Reductionism, Individualism, and Holism • Objectivity and Values • Problems of the Special Sciences • Commissioned articles: Taylor on Interpretation and the Sciences of Man Michael Martin • Microfoundations of Marxism, D. Little • Evidential Constraints: Pragmatic Empiricism in Archaeology, A. Wylie

    • Hardcover $100.00 £74.95
    • Paperback $78.00 £60.00