The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense

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9780195143263: The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense

As author of the bestselling Why People Believe Weird Things and How We Believe, and Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer has emerged as the nation's number one scourge of superstition and bad science. Now, in The Borderlands of Science, he takes us to the place where real science (such as the big bang theory), borderland science (superstring theory), and just plain nonsense (Big Foot) collide with one another.
Shermer argues that science is the best lens through which to view the world, but he recognizes that it's often difficult for most of us to tell where valid science leaves off and borderland science begins. To help us, Shermer looks at a range of topics that put the boundary line in high relief. For instance, he discusses the many "theories of everything" that try to reduce the complexity of the world to a single principle, and shows how most fall into the category of pseudoscience. He examines the work of Darwin and Freud, explaining why one is among the great scientists in history, while the other has become nothing more than a historical curiosity. He also shows how Carl Sagan's life exemplified the struggle we all face to find a balance between being open-minded enough to recognize radical new ideas but not so open-minded that our brains fall out. And finally, he reveals how scientists themselves can be led astray, as seen in the infamous Piltdown Hoax.
Michael Shermer's enlightening volume will be a valuable aid to anyone bewildered by the many scientific theories swirling about. It will help us stay grounded in common sense as we try to evaluate everything from SETI and acupuncture to hypnosis and cloning.

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About the Author:


Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com) and the Director of The Skeptics Society. He is a Visiting Associate at the California Institute of Technology, and hosts the Skeptics Lecture Series at Cal Tech. He has authored several popular books on science, scientific history, and the philosophy and history of science, including Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science, and Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? (with Alex Grobman). Shermer is also a radio personality and the host of the Fox Family Channel's Exploring the Unknown. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

From Publishers Weekly:

Superstring theory is one of the latest inhabitants of what Shermer (Why People Believe Weird Things, etc.), editor of Skeptic magazine, calls the "borderlands" of science: that is, ideas that fall somewhere between established, likely explanations for reality (or some small part thereof) and pseudoscientific claims (e.g., remote viewing or alien abduction). A 10-point "boundary detection kit" helps readers determine the credibility of new scientific claims; for example, "Does this source often make similar claims?" (i.e., is he or she a publicity seeker or a crank) and "Has anyone... gone out of the way to disprove the claim, or has only confirmatory evidence been sought?" His treatment of Carl Sagan, fearless navigator of scientific borderlands, is stellar, as is his chapter on racial differences, where he debunks the prevalent notion that black people are better at sports than at managing. Other chapters are less successful. In attacking Freud's "blustering ego," Shermer disregards how Freud's theories in their heyday helped many people. And throughout, he portrays Darwin as the perfect scientist, succumbing to the heroizing syndrome that he criticizes in others. At times, Shermer seems like a determined gadfly buzzing at the clay feet of figures and ideas he wants to chisel down to size, but his wings end up looking pretty bruised. Still, in spite of occasional ultraviolet prose, the book provides grist for the mill of thought and debate. (July)Forecast: Shermer's Skeptic reputation should help this outsell the similar Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction, by Charles M. Wynn and Arthur W. Wiggins (Forecasts, May 21).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Book Description Oxford University Press, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: As New. 1st Edition. 6.5x9.5. Shermer looks at the place where real science meets speculative science and pseudoscience. "Theories of Everything"; myths of a Golden Age; concepts of evolution, and a contrast between the legacy of Darwin and the legacy of Freud are just a few of the themes explored in this volume. viii+360 pages, illustrations, photos, notes, bibliography, index.Remainder Mark Published @ $25.00. Bookseller Inventory # 11202

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