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Tales of the Rational : Skeptical Essays About Nature and Science Paperback – May 12, 2000

4.8 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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If evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him. His Tales of the Rational defines an intellectual space as far removed as hardcore religious fundamentalism from mainstream thinking--but it may be coming closer as scientists and skeptics launch more aggressive attacks on pseudoscience and fuzzy thinking. Pigliucci, a rising star on the evolution-creationism debate circuit, pulls out all the stops in his work, not content merely to defend science against its detractors, but eagerly undermining belief in religion and the existence of any gods at all. Using writing that is strong if rarely eloquent, he defines his terms precisely, makes short work of creationists William Lane Craig and Duane Gish, challenges religious preconceptions, and even ventures to hose down the flames of pseudoscience spouting from chaos theory. Readers with any sympathy for spirituality will run face-first into statements like "I do not see what science has to gain from being reconciled with a system of superstitious beliefs that stands for the exact opposite of free inquiry."

His own transparent faith in reason and materialism may damn him in the eyes of the postmodern, but he is right when he claims that they are uniquely powerful tools for describing the world unmatched by anything in religion's shed. The essays could have used a bit of editing, but the rough edges bring out Pigliucci's charm and passion as he elbows religious believers out of the way to promote his scientific vision. This new kind of fundamentalism will probably run itself out--it's hard to imagine a swelling movement devoted to reason and atheism--but the lessons learned from Pigliucci's confrontational style should stay with us as we struggle to accommodate spiritual and scientific awareness through a process that can only be political. --Rob Lightner


You will come away refreshed, with your mind challenged by what is now not as simple as it seemed... -- Ed Buckner, Atlanta Freethought News, June 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Freethought Press; 1st edition (May 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1887392114
  • ISBN-13: 978-1887392112
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,371,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Scientists often seem remote, speaking an esoteric language whose precision increases its inaccessibility to the general public. Scientists also learn to avoid straying beyond the narrow regions of their expertise. That's good for science, but unfortunately leaves the public susceptible to those who speak whatever language will sell their arbitrary ideas. It also leaves the thoughtful, but non scientific, public without a guide to the issues on which science can and should inform.
How refreshing it is, then, to read Dr. Pigliucci's essays! A well-published biologist and an experienced debator, Dr. Pigliucci brings a careful, analytical mind to a wide range of topics in science, society, and religion. He argues with clarity and elegance in favor of using rational methods to understand our world and to evaluate the claims of those trying to sell arbitrary or evidenceless ideas as truth.
Dr. Pigliucci is especially strong in reviewing debates he's had with creationists. Having seen him debate with great style and success, I still find that a book is a better medium for presenting the thoughtful developments of arguments; his rebutals and further insights in 'Tales of the Rational' leave no further room for the pseudoscientific silliness of the creationists.
The book is a delightful journey through the methods and philosophies of science, the application of science and reason to religious claims, the foibles and frauds of proponents of mindless faith, the pseudoscience of anti-evolutionists, and an examination of other scientific ideas often misunderstood by the general public.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Pigliucci, whom I met in August at the first annual Secular Student Alliance conference (where he debated "intelligent design theorist" Walter Ramine, handily debunking the eccentric fellow's absurd and nonsensical rantings), has written a most laudable and entertaining book. In his TALES, he not only supplies skeptics/freethinkers with a veritable arsenal of incredibly cogent (both scientifically and philosophically) arguments against creationism and similar pseudoscience, but builds one of the strongest cases yet against superstition and irrationalism in general (e.g., religion). He also presents an overwhelmingly powerful, cumulative case for evolution, as well as some very intriguing (and enlightening) insights into recent developments within biochemistry, cosmology, and that exceedingly incorrigible sphere of study known as "chaos theory." Highly readable, thoroughly researched, and invariably scholarly (if sometimes rather provocative), Pigliucci's work is truly a delight to read. I whole-heartedly recommend it to all. (Incidentally, I myself am debating a creationist on my college campus next week, and TALES proved utterly invaluable to my research and preparation. Thanks, Massimo... I promise to quote you at least a dozen times :).
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Pigliucci's book does an excellent job of bringing the current debate between science and religion to the layman. This is not a work that tries to overwhelm you with big words or concepts that would lead to confusion. This is a direct, simple without being simplistic book where the good Doctor lines up the arguments for creationism, Intelligent Design, "God" being proven by science, etc. and shoots down each one with clear, concise explanations based on our current understanding of the universe. He also points out the continued flaws being expounded upon by those whose openly admitted position is to push for a theistic worldview, science be damned.
This book is excellent for those who want a one-volume overview of the current debate on science vs religion. I think it is a more valuable book for those who cling to the idea that everything, including science, comes from a supernatural being. I would hope that an honest reading of this book would awaken these people to the fact that there is not one iota of scientific evidence for any type of deity. I agree this does not rule out the possible existence of such a being (or that of the unicorn), it just means that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence and theists have as yet to produce such evidence.
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Format: Paperback
I don't want to sound too redundant compared to the other reviews, so I'll keep this somewhat short. As far as building a case for modern scientific theories is concerned, this book did rather well. As far as refuting pseudo-science goes, I sincerely doubt any stone has been left unturned. Not only did Dr. Pigliucci refute the cases of a few different creationists, he also weeded-out some of the confusion in (and misuse of) frontier sciences, including (off the tip of my brain) chaos theory, abiogenesis, and the possibility of contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence.
If you had to pick only one book to represent skepticism, I think you should definitely go with this one.
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Format: Paperback
Creationists often make claims that are hard to counter without knowledge of evolution and science. This books takes the creationists claims and destroys each of them.
This book also explains the debating techniques of the creationists. Showing how they use half-truths and made-up science to explain creationism, this book is required reading for anyone who has listened to creationist B.S. and did not have all the answers.
This book is a must for any Freethought library.
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