304 of 362 people found the following review helpful
The most anti-science "science" book I've ever read.
, June 12, 2010
This review is from: 13 Things that Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time (Paperback)
"13 Things That Don't Make Sense" is a list of things that the author apparently dearly wishes were true. If this book had been written as a exercise for the reader in identifying logical fallacies I'm quite sure I would have found it an enjoyable and educational read. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
Halfway through the book I identified the formulaic pattern by which nearly every chapter seems to have been manufactured. It goes something like this. 1) Identify some topic which the vast majority of scientists that specialize in it have reached a consensus of their general understanding of how it works. 2) Introduce crank "scientist" that has radical ideas about said topic that challenge the consensus. 3) Gain reader's trust by acknowledging a few of the more obvious arguments against the radical ideas and insincerely admit that the crank scientist might actually be wrong. 4) Spend the rest of the chapter a) promoting the radical ideas and b) ignoring, or merely giving lip service to, the more fundamental arguments that demonstrate how patently absurd the ideas actually are and c) painting the scientific community as a closed-minded dogmatic bunch of good-old-boys who don't like outsiders challenging their beliefs.
I was genuinely surprised that there wasn't a chapter titled "Evolution", as the author's pattern of attacking science seems to come directly from the play book of the Discovery Institute. In fact, it would seem that the author co-opted the "Wedge Strategy" of the DI for his own purposes.
Upon finishing the book, I concluded that the author's overarching agenda was to champion homeopathy. All the preceding chapters were a setup to undermine the reader's trust in the scientific community and it's ability to accurately answer questions about the world around us. The author clearly wants homeopathy to be true so bad that he's resolved to believe in it until the scientific community can prove to his satisfaction that it doesn't work. At the top of page 195, he states that "[The Scientific Community has] failed to prove homeopathy's inefficacy. Yet again." and in the next paragraph states that, "Given more than two centuries science has failed to show that homeopathy is bumkum."
Anyone with a sensible grasp of how science works knows quite well that it is not the responsibility of the scientific community to prove that homeopathy does not work. The onus is on those who claim that it does work to provide clear, repeatable, evidence to support their claim. To paraphrase the author, Given more that two centuries, homeopathy proponents have failed to produce *even one* truly homeopathic remedy that that can reliably and consistently treat *even one* medical condition under strict double-blind controls. In the absence of such evidence, to even believe that homeopathy might work, is nothing more that wishful thinking and those actively selling true homeopathic remedies are engaging in fraud.
On page 200 the author briefly dances around the argument that the extremely high dilution ratios in true homeopathy are actually the problem. He states that "dilution and succussion - to most, the very essence of homeopathy - could not just be a waste of time but the root of homeopathy's problems." But then he fails to take that to it's logical conclusion, that if you stop diluting these "remedies" to absurd degrees and actually provide a substance with enough molecules of active ingredient remaining, then the active ingredient will have a predictable effect on the patient. But that's not homeopathy anymore, that's how real science based medicine works.
There are a few medicines that market themselves as "homeopathic" but are actually real medicine provided in safe, clinically proven, dilution levels. In this case, the word "homeopathic" is just a clever marketing term to take advantage of the public's ignorance of what homeopathy is. Most active ingredients in real medicine are not safe to take in their pure form and are normally diluted to safe levels. But, if you're going to call these kinds of medicine "homeopathic", then you might as well call your morning coffee "homeopathic". Just remember, homeopathic dilution makes the substance stronger, so don't dilute your coffee too much or you won't be able to sleep for weeks.
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