Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunkby Massimo Pigliucci
Pub. Date: 05/15/2010
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Creationists who dismiss Darwin's theory of evolution. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. Climate change deniers who dismiss the warming planet as a hoax. These are just some of the groups that, despite robust scientific evidence, embrace pseudoscientific beliefs and practices. Why do they believe bunk? And how does their ignorance threaten us
Creationists who dismiss Darwin's theory of evolution. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. Climate change deniers who dismiss the warming planet as a hoax. These are just some of the groups that, despite robust scientific evidence, embrace pseudoscientific beliefs and practices. Why do they believe bunk? And how does their ignorance threaten us all?
Noted skeptic Massimo Pigliucci sets out to separate the fact from the fantasy in this entertaining exploration of the nature of science, the borderlands of fringe science, and– borrowing a famous phrase from philosopher Jeremy Bentham–the nonsense on stilts. Covering a range of controversial topics, Pigliucci cuts through the ambiguity surrounding science to look more closely at how science is conducted, how it is disseminated, how it is interpreted, and what it means to our society. The result is in many ways a "taxonomy of bunk" that explores the intersection of science and culture at large.
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Table of Contents
Introduction Science versus Pseudoscience and the "Demarcation Problem" 1
Chapter 1 Hard Science, Soft Science 6
Chapter 2 Almost Science 24
Chapter 3 Pseudoscience 56
Chapter 4 Blame the Media? 84
Chapter 5 Debates on Science: The Rise of Think Tanks and the Decline of Public Intellectuals 104
Chapter 6 Science and Politics: The Case of Global Warming 134
Chapter 7 Science in the Courtroom: The Case against Intelligent Design 160
Chapter 8 From Superstition to Natural Philosophy 187
Chapter 9 From Natural Philosophy to Modern Science 208
Chapter 10 The Science Wars I: Do We Trust Science Too Much? 233
Chapter 11 The Science Wars II: Do We Trust Science Too Little? 253
Chapter 12 Who's Your Expert? 279
Conclusion So, What Is Science after All? 302
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Massimo is one of the few examples of a scientist that is not only logical and bright, but also a witty and entertaining, making this book a great read. You will be amused and educated simultaneously. Why do we trust experts, even though some have been wrong? Should we trust journalism? Read and find out. Highly recommended!
Having read some of Pigliucci's other writings, including some of his technical work, I was hopeful about the direction this book would take. I am please to say that I was not disappointed. Beginning with the demarcation problem (how do we distinguish science from nonscience or pseudoscience) and ending with an explanation of why one should trust the consensus of experts as well as a fairly good heuristic to tell who actually qualifies as such in particular fields, Pigliucci is clear and concise throughout the text. He provides enough detail to explain the issue under consideration without getting so bogged down in technical jargon that the reader would require a strong background in the subject matter to understand the material. I was also happy with his handing of a couple of the biggest issues concerning the public's understanding of science today, those of creationism and anthropogenic climate change, both of which have had in the past and will continue to have in the future dramatic consequences for public life. I would recommend this book to anyone interested getting a rough idea of just what the philosophy of science is as well as how the public sees scientific discussions and why that matters.