Anti-Vaxxers And The Covid Crisis: The Sorry Story Of The Pernicious Influence Of A Pseudo-Science

In the fall of 2014, I spent the semester at a research unit, connected to the university, in Stellenbosch in South Africa.  The town is right in the middle of the wine-growing area and truly competes for the most beautiful place on Earth. I had intended to work on a book on global warming, but discovered on the first day that most of the holdings in the university library were in Afrikaans!  So I switched to writing a book on Darwinism, my area of professional expertise, and literature, my private love. The main reason being that, from my desk, thanks to the internet, that within seconds I could get a novel by Thomas Hardy or a poem by Emily Dickinson.

It turned out to be one of the most successful and enjoyable projects in my whole academic life, producing Darwinism as Religion: What Literature Tells Us About Evolution, a book of which I am very proud. But there was one irritating factor disturbing my time in South Africa. A nagging cough that I simply could not shake off. I suspected, being in a strange place, it was an allergy. On my return to Florida, in December, I trotted off to my physician and then to the allergist.  Nope!  No allergies. Followed by month after month of fruitless visits to one pulmonologist after another. Finally, I was referred to the medical center in Jacksonville, nearly two hundred miles from my hometown, where the University of Florida runs a clinic. At once, a much more knowledgeable pulmonologist diagnosed my problem – idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).  She dashed off somewhere leaving me to read the posters on the wall, one of which breezily told me that people diagnosed with IPF should expect a two-year maximum life-span.  Fortunately, at that moment my pulmonologist reappeared to tell me that she had just got permission to put me on a new drug, Ofev.  And here i am, six years later telling you all about it.

Why am I telling you all about it, apart from the fact that anything to do with the life and times of Michael Ruse is, in itself, innately interesting.  Because I want to draw to your attention the extent to which modern life depends on science, and the technology that stems from it.  Just pick up on two things. First, my time in Stellenbosch.  I could not use the library, so I turned to my computer and the internet.  Had people not worked out the science behind functioning computers and how they can be used to transfer information, I would have been stuck for four miserable months with an Afrikaans-English dictionary and a vanishing amount of completed research.  Second, back home in Florida, had people not worked out the science about the physiology of human beings and how certain drugs – chemical combinations – can be used to affect and steer the functioning of our bodies, at best you would be stuck with the Complete Works of Michael Ruse which came to an abrupt end around 2018.

My point is the obvious one.  Humans can be so truly awful.  Think of Hitler and the Jews.  Think of America and of centuries of oppression of black people by white people.  Think of Putin and the Ukraine.  Yet, on the other hand, people can be so transcendently good and worthwhile.  Think of Sophie Scholl, dead on the guillotine for her opposition to the Nazis.  Think of Plato and Aristotle, living in ancient Greece, almost single-handedly laying the foundations of our Western culture.  Think above all of our scientists.  Newton finding out the causes behind the heliocentric universe.  Darwin discovering the theory of evolution through natural selection.  Watson and Crick discovering the double helix, opening the way for molecular biology. Let us reject and refuse to follow the bad. Let us accept and embrace the good.

All so very simple.  And yet, it isn’t really.  Take the relationship between blacks and whites in America.  Last year in Florida, our Republican governor Ron DeSantis, who is hoping to be a presidential candidate in 2024, gerrymandered districts so that our number of black congressmen dropped from four to two.  This year he has banned the teaching of a course about black American history.  If one looks at the list of approved books for schools, Tom Sawyer is deemed suitable for seventh graders. Huckleberry Finn is conspicuous by its absence, even up to grade twelve.  Could this have anything to do with the fact that a major event in this second novel is when Huck realizes that his companion Jim, a runaway slave, is a fellow human being and refuses to give him up to the authorities?  

Turn to the good and focus on science. Obviously, science is a good thing in itself.  A triumph of the human mind revealing the nature of the world within which we live.  An achievement that ranks along with great art and music and literature.  It is also a good thing in that it leads to technology that enables us to live the lives of civilized human beings and not scrabbling through the life of a hunter-gatherer, always facing danger from predators and famine thanks to insufficient food and the buffeting from vile weather and more.  Yet the number of science deniers seems to multiply exponentially by the year. “Pseudo-science” – something shortly to be defined or characterized — is far too often the menu of choice.[i]  Real science is rejected.  Anti-genetic engineering, anti-global warming warnings, anti-vaccination.  At some great cost.  Because India refuses to allow genetic engineered crops, because of a lack of Vitamin A there are annually  early childhood deaths and another 500K cases of irreversible blindness (Regis 2029); because of denial of global warming we face  we can expect a speeding up of temperature rise, perhaps by two degrees or more by the end of this century, 2100 (Weart 2008); because of opposition to vaccination, death rates from Covid remain high (Reiss and Ruse 2023).  The deaths of the unvaccinated at least six times those of the vaccinated.

The appeal to pseudo-science is not new. A paradigmatic example of a pseudo-science is the eighteenth-century belief system (and practice) of mesmerism (Ruse 2013a, b).  So named after the German doctor Franz Mesmer, it postulated vital forces in living beings, open to discovery and manipulation – in other words, a kind of “animal magnetism,” that its practitioners regarded as a way to cure many illnesses and diseases.  It was very popular – it is almost a mark of a pseudo-science that it is popular – and from the first criticized and condemned by regular scientists.  In 1784, the French king Louis XVI set up a commission – including Benjamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier — to study mesmerism, and they drew conclusions that were very critical.  Not that their report had much effect, because mesmerism road high until the middle of the nineteenth century, when it ran out of steam. 

Two messages emerge from this little history.  First, it does seem that we can go some way towards coming up with criteria for separating science from pseudo-science.  Second, criteria or not, people are going to go accepting pseudo-science over real science!   Let me pick up on these points by turning to a case in which I myself was intensely involved – so-called “Scientific Creationism” (Ruse 1988). The traditional Christian position on reading the Bible was laid out by St Augustine, around 400AD.  How do we deal with biblical claims, especially those claims about the biblical order of creation, that seem completely impossible, from the viewpoint of reason?  Genesis tells us that light and dark were created on the first day, but that we had to wait for the fourth day for the sun to make an appearance.  Impossible!  Augustine’ solution was very modern sounding, or perhaps more generously we should say that our solution is very Augustinian sounding (Ruse 2023).  He argued that the bible is true, through and through.  But sometimes it is necessary to interpret it allegorically.  Why?  Well, for a start, the Ancient Jews were on the whole illiterate.  They were not sophisticated thinkers like fourth century AD Romans.  Too literal, and they wouldn’t understand a word going on. So, God tempered the wind to the shorn lamb – or Israelite.  God created, probably all at one time, and then explicated in a way that we can catch the important truths.

All of this was lost on Americans in the  early days of the young state, as the country began its push west. As is known to anyone who has read the Little House on the Prairie series – far better as books than the gooey television series – it was a harsh and unfriendly country that was being settled: from droughts and winter storms to dangerous animals, not to mention not-always-friendly humans long there and now being disturbed, as well as the distances and efforts needed to socialize and live normal community life – stores, schools, churches. Itinerant preachers played crucial roles, with crusades and other ways of spreading the gospel. Thanks to the industrialization of printing, books – Bibles – were much more freely available and affordable. It was natural that the Holy Book started to take a very prominent place – what one should believe, what one should do. What are the proper relationships between man and wife? How does one train and discipline one’s children? Servants and slaves? What is owed to them? What is expected of them? Look to the Bible for advice.

The newly founded Seventh-day Adventists had a major role in structuring the ways in which the Bible was approached and read (Numbers 2006). They were literalists, grounded in their need to take the six days of Creation as six periods of 24 hours. It was to be anticipated that this would get caught up in the disputes leading to the Civil War. Anti-slavers, in the North, cited the Bible – the Beatitudes for instance – as evidence against the owning and subjection of other human beings. In the South, to the contrary, the Bible was cited in favor of slavery. Ephesians 6:5–9 was a particular favorite:

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

If St Paul said this, who is to argue otherwise?

After the Civil War the Bible, taken literally, continued to play a big role – in the South, in the newly occupied lands of the mid-West, and increasingly in poorer regions of large cities, where the already-existing inhabitants felt threatened by the flux of European immigrants – Catholic, with a leavening of Jews. For the South, the story of the Israelites in captivity to the Babylonians was much appreciated. God inflicts greatest hardships on those whom He loves most. This was enshrined in a series of pamphlets, the Fundamentals, published at the beginning of the twentieth century. Hence the popular term of “Fundamentalists,” for biblical literalists. More recently people refer to themselves as “Creationists” (or “Scientific Creationists”).

Expectedly, opposition to evolutionary theorizing (especially Darwinian evolutionary theorizing) played a major role in the thinking of Creationists. The Bible, taken literally, talks of six days of Creation, of a single pair as the ancestors of all subsequent humans, of a worldwide flood, and much more. All of this is denied by Darwinism. However, it was not until after the First World War that things really came to a head when a schoolteacher in Tennessee, John Thomas Scopes, was put on trial for teaching evolution (Larson 1997). Prosecuted by three-times presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and defended by notorious secular thinker Clarence Darrow, the trial became a public spectacle, widely reported in America and abroad. Scopes was found guilty, although, on a technicality, his conviction was overturned on appeal. Nevertheless, the trial had a chilling effect on what was permissible in the classroom. As always, sales figures rated more highly than dissemination of the truth, and publishers of biology textbooks, seeing which way the wind was blowing, dropped all mention of Darwin and his theory. Until events like Sputnik, in 1957, the success of which was taken as a sad confirmation of the inadequacy of American science education New Darwin-friendly texts were commissioned and distributed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study program, notably Biological Science: Molecules to Man. The evangelicals found that their children were being taught the hated evolution – as gospel, to use a phrase. 

There was immediate reaction. In 1961, a biblical scholar and a hydraulic engineer, John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris,, published Genesis Flood, arguing against evolution and for the literal truth of the whole Holy Bible – six-day creation, universal deluge, parting of the Red Sea, and so on down to the present. It was hugely successful – the emphasis on the Flood, rather than Creation, reflected the fear of atomic conflict and the feeling that it was a foreteller of worse to come, Armageddon. Through the 1960s and 1970s, Creationism gained strength, and things came to a climax in 1981, when the State of Arkansas passed a law insisting that in biology classes of publicly funded schools of the state, Creationism (or Creation Science) be given “balanced treatment” along with the teaching of evolution (Gilkey 1985; Ruse 1988).

At once, the American Civil Liberties Union sprang into action, arguing that the law violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, because it egregiously mixes Church and State. Another trial ensued – along with popular scientist Stephen Jay Gould and leading Protestant theologian Langdon Gilkey, I (a philosopher) was a witness for the prosecution. There was little surprise that the judge, William Overton, ruled firmly against Creationism. He said flatly:

More precisely, the essential characteristics of science are:

(1) It is guided by natural law;

(2) It has to be explanatory by reference to natural law;

(3) It is testable against the empirical world;

(4) Its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word; and

(5) It is falsifiable. (Ruse and other science witnesses).

Creation science … fails to meet these essential characteristics.

Evolutionary thinking is science. Creationism is religion and, as such, can have no place in the classrooms of publicly funded schools. 

End of argument.  But, of course, it wasn’t!  Creation science went on being taught in schools, especially in proliferating private schools.  Without wanting to give the impression that I am picking on my home state of Florida – which, to be honest I am – the legislature have just passed a bill, tht will undoubtedly be signed by our governor, making available large sums of public money to support the running of private schools.  Many of these are Christian schools – Christian at the extreme end of the evangelical spectrum – and one is very naïve if one thinks that, in biology classes, evolution is getting equal treatment with  Genesis taken literally.  The conservative state government, egged on by Governor Ron DeSantis, has increasingly taken steps to direct the teaching in establishments of higher education – for instance, banning various teachings about black history – and it would be a foolish bet that there will never come a directive about university biology departments having to recognize the credentials of would-be students who have been taught that Genesis is true and evolution false.

The point I am making is that judgments about pseudoscience are rarely if ever based solely on factual criteria, for instance the demand of Karl Popper (1959) that genuine science always lays itself open to falsification.  Motives and intentions play a major role.  In the case of Creationism, religious convictions clearly play a major role.  This point was brought home dramatically some twenty years ago at my own institution, Florida State University (Ruse 2013a).  The University had just started a medical school, despite the worries of most of the faculty that this would mean a significant draining of resources for the rest of the campus.  The new school went out of its way to make itself seem user friendly, for instance by focusing on the training of rural GPs, a desperate need in Florida.  How could a John Stuart Mill liberal like me object to that?!  (I should say that the school carried through its promise and the rest of the campus now regards it with pride.)   However, back then the new school was understandably nervous abut its status.  Disaster struck.  An influential member of the state government secured a grant of several million dollars for the school to open a department of chiropractic.  That was the last thing the new school needed, given the iffy reputation of chiropractic as a legitimate form of medical practice.  Opinion piece after opinion piece was penned saying openly that chiropractic was a pseudo-science.  (That language was actually used.) to the school’s great relief, the offer was withdrawn.  All reverted to normal, which included almost all the local GPs reverting to their usual practice of referring patients with back pain to the local chiropractors.

The point I am making is not to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the medical profession – we philosophers need to make sure that our own house is in order before we start to do that – but to show how ascriptions of pseudo-scientific practice are so very dependent on subjective social factors, as much as if not more than supposedly objective philosophical factors.  Which brings me (at last!) to the topic of this essay, the recent covid epidemic and vaccination, more particularly anti-vaccination, or, as they are usually know, anti-vaxxers.  I shall take without argument that the vaccines are safe and very effective.   According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:  “All vaccinated groups had overall lower risk of dying from COVID-19 and testing positive for COVID-19 compared with people who were unvaccinated.”  

Now, accepting the objective fact that vaccines save lives, turn to the subjective question of why so many people refuse to be vaccinated?  Speaking with some personal experience, for some, it is part of an ongoing anti-vax philosophy.  In the 1950s, my mother having died, my father married a young woman from Germany.  She came from a family of Rudolf Steiner enthusiasts. Steiner (1861-1925), whose world picture was called “anthroposophy,” an esoteric spiritual movement, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy.  Steiner did not confine himself just to a spiritual philosophy, but pronounced on almost all aspects of life – agriculture (“Biodynamic” farming, a kind of organic farming with esoteric demands like cows horns buried at midnight), education (“Waldorf” schools which emphasize the arts over formal learning), architecture (distinctive windows with lots of curves), and medicine.  A major element of which was hostility to vaccination.  

It will be the main concern of these spirits of darkness to bring confusion into the rightful elements which are now spreading on earth, and need to spread in such a way that the spirits of light can continue to be active in them. They will seek to push these in the wrong direction. I have already spoken of one such wrong direction, which is about as paradoxical as is possible. I have pointed out that while human bodies will develop in such a way that certain spiritualities can find room in them, the materialistic bent, which will spread more and more under the guidance of the spirits of darkness, will work against this and combat it by physical means. I have told you that the spirits of darkness are going to inspire their human hosts, in whom they will be dwelling, to find a vaccine that will drive all inclination towards spirituality out of people’s souls when they are still very young, and this will happen in a roundabout way through the living body. (“Rudolf Steiner on Traditional Childhood Illnesses and Vaccines” Compiled by David Adams: 07 RS-Traditional Childhood Illnesses and Vaccines.pdf (wildapricot.org) ) 

Grant then that religious/philosophical ideas can turn people from vaccination.  Grant also that this can be of general concern where there are many Waldorf schools – notably California – where refusal to vaccinate for things like measles and mumps, let alone covid, can lead to outbreaks of disease that can get out and affect the general population – especially those who for various reasons cannot be vaccinated.  This hardly accounts for the huge opposition to covid vaccination in America in the last two to three years.  There are very strong clues.  Consider an analysis by national public radio (NPR):

“Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden. …

NPR looked at deaths per 100,000 people in roughly 3,000 counties across the U.S. from May 2021, the point at which vaccinations widely became available. People living in counties that went 60% or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.73 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates.

In October, the reddest tenth of the country saw death rates that were six times higher than the bluest tenth…” 

(Pro-Trump counties now have far higher COVID death rates : Shots – Health News : NPR )

Asking about the statistics rather than the behavior:  Does this make sense?  It certainly does (Ruse 2022).  Start the explanation in the 1970s, when huge numbers of working-class people lost their jobs because of outsourcing and automation.  Gone was a good job at General Motors, starting at 18 after high school, with holidays, health care, and pensions, and nothing in return.  No work and non-stop daytime television, living on the wife’s income as a worker in a supermarket.  In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher pushed a neo-liberal philosophy of lower taxes and more successful businesses and, as they rose, so would everyone.  Didn’t work out that way.  The rich got richer.  The rest did not.  So came the Potemkin Village promises of Donald Trump and Brexit.  To hell with the comfortable and educated.  Let them taste their own medicine and let us grab something of what is going.  More actually of tasting than of grabbing.

Frighteningly informative is the following from an opinion piece in the New York Times:

“In 2016, shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory, Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, summed up the attitudes she observed after years of studying rural Americans: “The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered “racial minorities on welfare” as well as “lazy urban professionals” working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dol­lars. People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them— but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.” (Potts 2019, quoting Cramer 2016) 

“‘Lazy urban professionals’ working at desk jobs.” That tells everything. Especially the contempt for education. 

Really, though, it is a question of respect. “People would talk about opposing social programs because the recipients were lazy and not hardworking like themselves; those were often dog-whistle rac­ist claims. But, at times, they were also talking about the laziness of desk-job white professionals like me.” It all adds up. “The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and dis­respected. They were doing what they perceived good Americans ought to do to have the good life. And the good life seemed to be passing them by.”

It works the other way too.  Perceptively, a recent commentator has written: “Sympathy for the working class has, for many, curdled into contempt” (Leers 2021, 8). The Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel (2020) writes: “It is important to remember that most Americans— nearly two-thirds— do not have a four-year college degree. By telling workers that their inadequate education is the reason for their troubles, meritocrats moralize success and failure and unwittingly pro­mote credentialism— an insidious prejudice against those who do not have college degrees.” He adds: “Survey research bears out what many working- class voters intuit: At a time when racism and sexism are out of favor (discredited though not eliminated), credentialism is the last acceptable prejudice.” Continuing by not­ing a recent survey: “Beyond revealing the disparaging views that college- educated elites have of less-educated people, the study also found that elites are unembarrassed by this prejudice. They may denounce racism and sexism, but they are unapologetic about their negative attitudes toward the less educated.”  

It all falls into place.  Vaccination is endorsed by the educated middle class.  Hence, it must be suspect and rejected by the working class.  Not because of what it is.  Rather, because of who endorses and takes advantage of it.  And that I am afraid is the end of this rather sad little essay.  Until we can reform the social situation, things like the anti-vax movement are going to arise again and again.  I am not intending to preach a message of unrelieved despair.  I think there are things we can do to start rectifying the situation.  If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is tht there is desperate need of people able and willing to work with those in need – old people for example.  Community colleges could play a major role in giving people training and qualifications to fill such roles.  Four-year degrees are not needed for many such jobs.  Work and respect are possible.  So perhaps this is not really the end of this sad little essay.  Rather the message is that simply making theoretical scientific and philosophical arguments are not enough.  We have got to pull back and think about the social factors involved and, as we can, start to change them for happier futures.

Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. His most recent books include Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict and Understanding the Christianity-Evolution Relationship.

Reference List

Cramer, K. J. 2016. For years, I’ve been watching anti-elite fury build in Wisconsin. Then came Trump. Vox: https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016-11/16/13645116/rural-resentment-elites-trump.

Gilkey, L. B. 1985. Creationism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock. Minneapolis: Winston Press.

Larson, E. J. 1997. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. New York: Basic Books.

Lears, J. 2021. Orthodoxy of the elites. New York Review of Books LXVIII, no. 1: 8-11.

Numbers, R. L. 2006. The Creationists:  From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design. Standard ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Popper, K R. 1959. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. London: Hutchinson.

Potts, M. 2019. In the Land of Self-Defeat. New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019-10/04/opinion/sunday/trump-arkansas.html 

Regis, E. 2019. Golden Rice: The Imperiled Birth of a GMO Superfood. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Reiss, M., and M. Ruse. 2023. The New Biology: The Battle between Mechanism and Organicism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Ruse, M., Editor. 1988.  But is it Science?  The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy.  Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus.

Ruse, M. 1996. Monad to Man:  The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Ruse, M. 2001. Altruism: A Darwinian naturalist’s perspective.  Altruism. Editor J. Schloss.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Ruse, M. 2013a. The Gaia Hypothesis: Science on a Pagan Planet. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ruse, M. 2013b. Evolution: From pseudoscience to popular science, from popular science to professional science. Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem.Editors M. Boudry and M. Pigliucci, 225-45. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ruse, M. 2017. Darwinism as Religion: What Literature Tells Us About Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ruse, M. 2022. Why We Hate:  Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ruse, M. 2023. Understanding the Life Sciences and Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sandel, M. 2020. The Tyranny of Merit: What’s become of the Common Good?   New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Weart, S. R. 2008.  The Discovery of Global Warming. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Whitcomb, J. C., and H. M. Morris. 1961. The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.


[i] I have written extensively on the subject of pseudo-science and draw on some of this work in this essay. (See Ruse 1988, 1996, 2013.)

Author

Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

By Zillah Eisenstein: Newest Misogyny/Ies

By Michael Ruse: Anti-Vaxxers And The Covid Crisis: The Sorry Story Of The Pernicious Influence Of A Pseudo-Science

By Rev. Matthew V. Johnson, Jr: A Letter Of Concern To Black Clergy Regarding “Cop City”

By Firoze Manji: Amílcar Cabral And The Politics Of Culture And Identity

By Andrew Feenberg: The “New” Lukács

By Bill Fletcher, Jr: The Continued Relevance Of W.E.B. Du Bois, Sixty Years On

By Philip Green: On Liberalism

By Benjamin Shepard: On Cities Of Friends And Riots: Between Conflict, Solidarity, And Struggles For Recognition

By Sabby Sagal: REVIEW ESSAY: Dostoevsky as Political Agitator: Alex Chistofi, Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life (London: Bloomsbury, 2022)

By Mario Kessler: Susan Neiman, Left Is Not Woke. New York: Polity Press, 2023

By Warren Leming: Bob Dylan, The Philosophy of Modern Song (New York: Simon & Schuster 2022)

By Kurt Jacobsen: John Nichols, I Got Mine: Confessions of a Midlist Writer (Albuquerque: High Road Books, 2022)

By Aidan J. Beatty: Jo Guidi, The Long Land War: The Global Struggle for Occupancy Rights (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022)

By Sarah Kamal: Eben Kirksey, The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans Bristol: Bristol University Press, 2021.