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Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?: Debunking Pseudoscience Paperback – October 17, 2001
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Nobody alive has done more than Gardner to spread the understanding and appreciation of mathematics, and to dispel superstition. -- The New Criterion, John Derbyshire
[Gardner] zaps his targets with laserlike precision and wit. -- Entertainment Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
For these reasons and others, Martin Gardner is one of my favorite authors. I've enjoyed his articles over the years, and find his books both refreshing and educational. This book, "Did Adam and Eve have Navels," is consistent with Gardner's reputation as one of the best science and mathematics authors around.
Gardner's book consists of a collection of essays (there are 28), each dealing with some aspect of pseudo science (or, in some cases, I'd call it pseudo logic). The title on the front of the jacket corresponds with the subject matter of the first essay. There is something about simple questions and observations that fascinates me. They tend to be overlooked or ignored, but often lead us to deep insights. In Gardner's first essay, he explores the logic - or lack of it - in the idea of the mythical Adam and Eve and whether they actually had belly buttons. This seems like a whimsical question, and one probably best forgotten by most people. The problem is, as Gardner points out, whether you answer the question "yes," or "no," there are unexpected consequences.
This is pretty much Gardner's style throughout the rest of the book, as he picks off one after the other unsupported idea or myth. Topics include ideas about intelligent design, egg balancing, numerology, Cannibalism as a myth, Freud, and the Star of Bethlehem.Read more ›
There are 28 essays in this collection, all but one from Gardner's column in the Skeptical Inquirer. They range over such matters as UFOs, religion, social science, astronomy, evolution versus creationism, etc. There is a chapter on "Alan Sokal's Hilarious Hoax." ( I too thought it was pretty hilarious. See my review of The Sokal Hoax: The Sham that Shook the Academy (2000).) There is one on cannibalism in which I found Gardner's skepticism understandable, especially as he points out that it is always the other culture that makes the accusation; however his essay finally suggests that the debate may be more over the extent than in any doubt about its occurrence. The Adam and Eve question is of course a joke, but the kind of joke that has been taken seriously by some for hundreds of years. For me it's similar to the question about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. More germane is the chapter, "Freud's Flawed Theory of Dreams" followed by "Post-Freudian Dream Theory" in which it is demonstrated once again that Freud was, shall we say, mistaken.
The chapter on Carlos Castaneda is illuminating in what it reveals about the gullibility of some anthropologists, while the essay on the ill-fated Heaven's Gate "Bo and Peep" cult is sad. Gardner has some fun with Jean Houston, channeling master and New Age guru to Hillary Rodman Clinton.Read more ›
However, upon reading the rest of the book I was dismayed to find that the majority of the chapters spend precious little time debunking flawed science, and mainly give an exhausting list of the instances of a particular misconception. For example, the chapter on urine therapy spends vastly more time on various incarnations of this technique than on medical evidence showing that urine has no therapeutic benefit. Gardner addresses this point briefly in one chapter, in which he states that he wouldn't waste print space trying to have an intelligent argument over whether a certain topic is right or wrong. The implication being that it is beneath his intelligence to do so. And to be fair, this thinking is true for a great many of the topics in the book, including remote viewing, second coming prophecies, and UFO cults.
I therefore feel somewhat mislead that a book subtitled "Debunking Pseudoscience" focuses less on the inaccuracies of scientific misconceptions and more on completely and obviously ridiculous crackpot ideas. Expanding on Gardner's comment, this is not "pseudoscience", "science" doesn't belong anywhere near the label of many of these subjects.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I purchased this book to get a glimps of the athiest point of view. And what can I say? Hmm well, "Screwy Louie had a skewed view do U 2? Read morePublished 19 months ago by Arthur O'Shea
Great book. These exercises change my energy level & life! I feel already better, Book #2 in this series reiterates most of the same information AND adds in one absolutely crucial... Read morePublished on December 11, 2013 by Papagigo
He talked about mad cow disease being caused by a "virus." It's not caused by a virus, it's caused by prions. Read morePublished on April 25, 2011 by Clang
Martin Gardner more or less began the modern skeptical movement, with his 1957 book FADS AND FALLACIES IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE; he is one of the most influential skeptical thinkers... Read morePublished on November 2, 2008 by Mike Smith
Yep, there are alot of inane and archaic beliefs out there. And they sure could use debunking, but you won't find that debunking here. Read morePublished on August 12, 2008 by B. Centre
I wanted to like this book, as I tire of hearing and reading about people all around me expressing interest in literally incredible (not credible) stories and beliefs. Read morePublished on July 28, 2008 by Rich
This is a horrific waste of binding glue. The title promises debunking but what is delivered is little more than page after page of pretentious bibliography, literary references... Read morePublished on January 18, 2008 by Andrew Clatington