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Michael Shermer - The Borderlands of Science (mp3 audiobook)
Michael Shermer - The Borderlands of Science:Where Sense Meets Nonsense (mp3 audiobook)
In The Borderlands of Science, Michael Shermer takes us to the place where real science, borderline science--and just plain nonsense--collide. Shermer argues that while science is the best lens through which to view the world, it is often difficult to decipher where valid science leaves off and borderland, or "fuzzy" science begins. To solve this dilemma, he looks at a range of topics that put this boundary line in high relief. For instance, he debunks the many "theories of everything" that try to reduce the complexity of the world to a single principle. 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. And he reveals how scientists themselves can be led astray, as seen in the infamous Piltdown hoax--the set of ancient hominid bones discovered in England that after decades turned out to be an enormous forgery.
From SETI and acupuncture to hypnosis and human cloning, this enlightening book will help readers stay grounded in common sense amid the flurry of supposedly scientific theories that inundate us every day.
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).
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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Kooky but prevalent beliefs both amuse and dismay scientists, and their popular writings embrace a tradition of critiquing cranky and implausible ideas. Shermer writes accessibly about common scientific misperceptions. He runs an outfit called the Skeptics Society, which also publishes a magazine, a Web site, and books that contend with the rampancy of pseudoscience in modern culture. This eclectic title comprises essays on topics about science (e.g., human cloning, evolution) and personalities in science. The latter is Shermer's bait for readers, for in characters like Copernicus, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Carl Sagan, the author demonstrates in human-interest fashion how scientists' personal traits influence their scientific research. The recreational rationalist will have fun with Shermer's potpourri. Gilbert Taylor