- Paperback: 110 pages
- Publisher: Wadsworth Pub Co; 1st edition (March 1, 1982)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0534011535
- ISBN-13: 978-0534011536
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,902,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Science and Unreason Paperback – March 1, 1982
A fresh, lively approach to the subject of pseudoscience and how it differs from genuine science. The books teaches critical reasoning skills as it probes the directions of scientific reasoning involved in such ideas as creationism, extra sensory perception, the Bermuda triangle, "scientific" astrology, ancient astronauts, biorhythms, and pyramid power. The text focuses on the patterns of reasoning and the assumptions of pseudoscience. This book should be of interest to degree and diploma students of philosophy, psychology and the social sciences.
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What are we to do, once we have a paradigm? The Radners are emphatic: “The only useful collection of mushrooms is a sorted collection. Likewise, you will never build up a scientifically useful collection of data unless you are willing to do some sorting and leave some of your ‘facts’ behind.” This is the unconvincing part. Just because systematic fact gathering is better than unsystematic fact gathering doesn’t mean that the facts obtained unsystematically are invalid. The unclear part is deciding what facts to get rid of. Should we discard facts that contradict the paradigm? If we do, we’ll never abandon an established paradigm. (The Radners never mention paradigm shifts. You aren’t getting full value from a study of scientific revolutions if you leave out scientific revolutions.) Should we discard them because the paradigm tells us that they’re irrelevant? That hardly covers the salamander fossil. If a salamander fossil isn’t relevant to paleontology, what is?
Scheuchzer was not led astray by unsystematic fact gathering. Neither were Fort and the parapsychologists; according to the Radners, they systematically discarded facts that didn’t fit in with their dogmatic beliefs. To realize where they went wrong, you need to know the difference between critical fact gathering and wishful fact gathering. “Cargo Cult Science: Some Remarks on Science, Pseudoscience, and Learning How to Not Fool Yourself,” Chapter 10 of "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out," by Richard Feynman, is a good short introduction to critically gathering and evaluating facts. Feynman had the advantage of being a genius, but life is unfair.
The book begins with the opening chapter where it discusses the fringe of science. The chapter is divided into 7 subjects: Flat Earth, Ancient Astronauts, Biorhythm, Creationism, Immanuel Velikovsky, The Bicameral Mind, and Parapsychology. Most of the subjects contain references from other scientific books and the views of writers. In one of the subjects, Radner briefly explains the beliefs and history of a flat-earther and even previews an instruction on how to get a subscription of Flat Earth News and a membership card containing the inscription of proof that the world is flat. In the section of Creationism, it explains the theory of evolution and creation and discusses both sides to avoid a biased view. The chapter itself defines uncommon words in order for the reader to proceed with comprehension of the subject, and uses quotes from other books to get a point across. The section of The Bicameral Mind was relatively easy to understand and interesting. It starts off by explaining how a specific procedure of severing the corpus callosum, the connection between the two hemispheres of the brain, work independently. Radner introduces Julian Jaynes, who proposes that humans were not conscious at one point before evolution took place. Before evolution supposedly changed this, Jaynes claimed that people heard the voices of the gods up until the point humans became conscious. In the section of Parapsychology, Radner mentions Uri Geller and other anecdotes, mediums in how they got their stardom and how they got debunked, the history of Society for Physical Research, and the tests of different ESPs.
Radner dedicates the focus primarily on the difference between a crank and a revolution. The introduction of Galileo, inventor of the telescope, and Louis Pasteur, who came up with the theory of germs and diseases, sets the book with enough history and comprehension of the differentiation between a crank and revolution. Galileo and Pasteur were both ridiculed for what they believed to be true, and are now considered pioneers of science. This section spends more time in explaining what the perspectives of a crank are and how they go about with their beliefs.
Chapter three reveals a list of marks of pseudoscience. Before the list, Radner explains the terms necessary and sufficient condition and uses them in examples in order for the reader to have a better grasp on the subject. As a pre-warning to the reader before the list is revealed and explained, Radner states, "Any item on the list is a sufficient condition for being pseudoscientific. It is not to be expected that a single crank will satisfy all of the conditions, only some of them." (p. 27) With more information of what a crank is, Radner distinguishes a true scientist as an individual who follows the scientific method as opposed to a crank who would typically not have enough or any credentials and would normally isolate themselves from a scientific community.
An interesting section of the book, The Mystery of Science, makes a point on how the older generation today views the young generation as a group that has a better understanding of science and technology in general. The main point is the fact that the young generation only understands that technology works and not how it works. From this point, Radner guides the reader to a more valid point that pseudoscience can contain more entertainment than anything because of how they just believe that something works rather than knowing how it works through the scientific method. It is also stated that although a scientist does not have all the answers, they continue to strive for facts that came from beliefs.
Throughout the book, there are random clippings of information with the proper attributions of the issue and page number from The Skeptical Inquirer boxed off for the reader see. The book itself is interesting enough with informative material, and I see the clippings almost as a treat for the reader, like a "fun fact" in a travel guide. At the end of every chapter, there is a well organized bibliography to locate specific information of which Radner specifically says to locate if the reader were interested in a particular subject. At the very end of the book, the reader will find a list of further reading in science and pseudoscience and philosophy and science for more information. The index contains all of the specific words the author provides for a better understanding on every subject discussed, which helped me to immediately locate a specific term in case I forgot while reading a section.
Science and Unreason is a book that I recommend reading. It is relatively short, but informative to read and well organized. It is rather interesting and very easy to follow with a proper guide through every subject from the author. The book gives plenty of valid points of how to distinguish science from pseudoscience and how to be more of a skeptic in the broad field of science. There were many familiar points mentioned along with new points I have never come across until reading this book. For a quick guide on any particular piece of science or pseudoscience, this is a book I recommend because of the information that it contains and the bibliography and list for further reading.