News Release

Here's how public dissemination of biology is going wrong

Too often, what comes over to the public is a crude, out-of-date, simplistic, monocausal, reductionist biology. Why is biology so mis-represented? And who is responsible?

Book Announcement

World Scientific

One of the great achievements of biology, as it emerged as a scientific discipline in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, was to develop the concepts of cells and genes. We now often talk about the living world as though it was made up of specific bits, like genes, neurones or cells. But these are really all abstractions, or constructions. They are not building blocks, like little bits of hard matter. Even with cells, there is no really hard boundary, nothing as sharp as a cell wall. In reality, one thing flows into another; walls are permeable. We are dealing more with gradients than with walls. If the way we talk suggests otherwise, it is just a language of convenience, and to some extent misleading.

Published by leading scientific publisher World Scientific, Rethinking Biology: Public Understandings arises from a concern that in the public dissemination of biology, popularisation has led to the use of simplistic micro explanations to arouse most interest and to capture the headlines-an approach that risks distorting and simplifying the complexity of biological processes, and that can mislead people.

The book sheds light to how the public dissemination of biology is going wrong by studying how children and adults understand biology, how journalists write about it, how simplistic biology is mis-used in legal contexts, and how multi-level biology can shape a religious world view. It shows how complex explanations, in one area of biology after another, are often simplified in a misleading way, giving the public a false idea of how biology works, and urge biologists to make a concerted attempt to come to grips with the interactive complexity of biology, and to find ways of conveying it to the public accessibly and effectively.


Rethinking Biology is the result of a close collaboration between 17 authors from the USA, UK and Europe, representing biology and a range of other disciplines. Preparation of this book was supported by grant TWCF0129 from the Templeton World Charity Foundation on "The New Biology: Implications for Philosophy, Theology and Education."

Rethinking Biology retails for US$35 / £30 (paperback) and US$88 / £75 (hardback). To order or know more about the book, visit 11478.

About the Editors

Michael J Reiss is Professor of Science Education at UCL Institute of Education, University College London, Visiting Professor at the Universities of Kiel and York and the Royal Veterinary College, Honorary Fellow of the British Science Association and of the College of Teachers, Docent at the University of Helsinki and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. His research and consultancy interests are in science education, sex education, curriculum studies and bioethics. His books include: Barmania, S & Reiss, M J (2018) Islam and Health Policies Related to HIV Prevention in Malaysia, Springer; Abrahams, I & Reiss, M J (Eds) (2017) Enhancing Learning with Effective Practical Science 11-16, Bloomsbury; Reiss, M J & White, J (2013) An Aims-based Curriculum, IOE Press; Jones, A, McKim, A & Reiss, M (Eds) (2010) Ethics in the Science and Technology Classroom: A New Approach to Teaching and Learning, Sense; Jones, L & Reiss, M J (Eds) (2007) Teaching about Scientific Origins: Taking Account of Creationism, Peter Lang; Braund, M & Reiss, M J (Eds) (2004) Learning Science Outside the Classroom, RoutledgeFalmer; Levinson, R & Reiss, M J (Eds) (2003) Key Issues in Bioethics: A Guide for Teachers, RoutledgeFalmer; Halstead, J M & Reiss, M J (2003) Values in Sex Education: From Principles to Practice, RoutledgeFalmer; Reiss, M J (2000) Understanding Science Lessons: Five Years of Science Teaching, Open University Press; Chapman, J L & Reiss, M J (1999). Ecology: Principles and Applications, Cambridge University Press; Reiss, M J & Mabud, S A (Eds) (1998) Sex Education and Religion, The Islamic Academy; Reiss, M J & Straughan, R (1996). Improving Nature? The Science and Ethics of Genetic Engineering, Cambridge University Press; Reiss, M J (1993) Science Education for a Pluralist Society, Open University Press; King, A & Reiss, M J (Eds) (1993) The Multicultural Dimension of the National Curriculum, Falmer Press; and Reiss, M J (1989) The Allometry of Growth and Reproduction, Cambridge University Press.

Fraser Watts was Reader in Theology and Science in the University of Cambridge, where he was Director of the Psychology and Religion Research Group and a Fellow of Queens' College. He is a former President of the British Psychological Society and of the International Society for Science and Religion, and a former Chair of the British Association of Christians in Psychology. He is now Visiting Professor of Psychology of Religion at the University of Lincoln, Executive Secretary of the International Society of Science and Religion, and Director of the Cambridge Institute for Applied Psychology and Religion.

In the first half of his career his research was mainly in clinical psychology, especially on cognitive approaches to emotional disorders. Over the last 20 years he has worked mainly on psychology and religion. That has been mainly on the interface of theology and psychology, arguing that there is more of a two-way relationship than obtains in most areas of theology and science. He has also contributed to the psychological study of religion, especially exploring the implications for the evolution of religion of dual-process models of human cognition, and exploring the implications of the scientific study of religion for theology. His wider interests in theology and science have focused mainly on evolutionary and systemic biology, and on general methodological issues in theology and science.

Harris Wiseman is a Research Associate at the University of Birmingham. He has a PhD in Divinity (psychology of religion) from the University of Cambridge, where he was Research Associate for two years. During that time he published The Myth of the Moral Brain - The Limits of Moral Enhancement (MIT Press). His bioethics and his 'religion and technology' work have been published in many of the leading journals and publishers in the field, the American Journal of Bioethics, Cambridge Healthcare Quarterly, the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and Zygon. He was a convener of the Boyle Lecture Series, honorary Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Education, UCL; and remains a regular contributor to the Geneva Center for Security Policy's Geopolitics and Global Futures program (specifically, the neurophilosophy of global security).

About World Scientific Publishing Co.

World Scientific Publishing is a leading international independent publisher of books and journals for the scholarly, research and professional communities. World Scientific collaborates with prestigious organisations like the Nobel Foundation and US National Academies Press to bring high quality academic and professional content to researchers and academics worldwide. The company publishes about 600 books and over 140 journals in various fields annually. To find out more about World Scientific, please visit

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