Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

Pigliucci, Massimo
ISBN:
9780226667867

Creationists who dismiss Darwin's theory of evolution. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. Climate change deniers who dismiss the warming planet as a hoax. These are just some of the groups that, despite robust scientific evidence, embrace pseudoscientific beliefs and practices. Why do they believe bunk? And how does their ignorance threaten us all? Noted skeptic Massimo Pigliucci sets out to separate the fact from the fantasy in this entertaining exploration of the nature of science, the borderlands of fringe science, and- borrowing a famous phrase from philosopher Jeremy Bentham-the nonsense on stilts. Covering a range of controversial topics, Pigliucci cuts through the ambiguity surrounding science to look more closely at how science is conducted, how it is disseminated, how it is interpreted, and what it means to our society. The result is in many ways a "taxonomy of bunk" that explores the intersection of science and culture at large. Editorial Reviews New Scientist How can we decide what counts as science? That is the central question of this brilliant book, which ought to be required reading for, well, everyone." -- Amanda Gefter Times Higher Education How is an intelligent layperson with general interests, or for that matter a narrow but deeply focused specialist, supposed to make sense of the torrents of nonsense that spew from all directions? How can we distinguish fact from fancy, medicine from snake-oil, science from bunk? What hangs in the balance? And who dares plumb the fathomless depths of data, teeming with creatures contradictory and controversial alike? Enter Massimo Pigliucci, a brave volunteer for this mission....His book serves a seriously worthwhile purpose: that of giving you, the reader, tools and instructions for assembling your very own 'baloney-detector.' Armed with this, you stand a vastly improved chance of separating the wheat of reliable knowledge from the chaff of fashionable nonsense in your daily harvest of data. -- Lou Marinoff Choice Nonsense on Stilts is a very interesting, useful compendium of thinking about and within science. . . . Valuable as a reference for courses in science, philosophy, political science, and journalism, as well as a handbook for the public. . . . Highly recommended." -- R. E. Buntrock Quarterly Review of Biology An informative, well-written, how-to guide for distinguishing science from nonscience and pseudoscience. . . . There is much to recommend in this book, beginning with Pigliucci's analysis of the heterogeneity of the sciences, his discussion of the merely "quasi" sciences such as evolutionary psychology, history and interpretations of quantum theory, and his critiques of the pseudosciences." -- Richard A. Richards Dr. Philip Plait "A frightening percentage of the American population cannot tell the difference between sense and nonsense--astrology, creationism, and antivaccination propaganda are rampant despite overwhelming evidence against them. If only we could get everyone to sit down and read Nonsense on Stilts, this country would be in far better shape! Pigliucci carefully lays out the case for why science leads us to the truth, but will always be battling superstition and antireality along the way. His book should be required reading in every science class." Paul Kurtz "Nonsense on Stilts provides a masterful analysis of the demarcation problem. There is no easy litmus test to distinguish genuine from junk science. Even Karl Popper's criterion of non-falsifiability is too simplistic. For Pigilucci, hard science is based on empirically verifiable hypotheses and theories. A richly insightful provocative book in defense of naturalism." Eugenie C. Scott "A research scientist who then became a philosopher helps you tell the difference between what is science, almost science, and pseudoscience. An eminently readable, insightful, and sensible book. I enjoyed it very much." David Shenk "This is such an important book, and a great read. It is not an overstatement to say that our future survival may depend on the public's ability to distinguish between science and pseudoscience. With patience, precision, and humor, Massimo Pigliucci charts a careful course for all scientists and communicators to follow." New Scientist - Amanda Gefter "How can we decide what counts as science? That is the central question of this brilliant book, which ought to be required reading for, well, everyone." Times Higher Education - Lou Marinoff "How is an intelligent layperson with general interests, or for that matter a narrow but deeply focused specialist, supposed to make sense of the torrents of nonsense that spew from all directions? How can we distinguish fact from fancy, medicine from snake-oil, science from bunk? What hangs in the balance? And who dares plumb the fathomless depths of data, teeming with creatures contradictory and controversial alike? Enter Massimo Pigliucci, a brave volunteer for this mission....His book serves a seriously worthwhile purpose: that of giving you, the reader, tools and instructions for assembling your very own 'baloney-detector.' Armed with this, you stand a vastly improved chance of separating the wheat of reliable knowledge from the chaff of fashionable nonsense in your daily harvest of data." Choice - R. E. Buntrock "Nonsense on Stilts is a very interesting, useful compendium of thinking about and within science. . . . Valuable as a reference for courses in science, philosophy, political science, and journalism, as well as a handbook for the public. . . . Highly recommended." Quarterly Review of Biology - Richard A. Richards "An informative, well-written, how-to guide for distinguishing science from nonscience and pseudoscience. . . . There is much to recommend in this book, beginning with Pigliucci's analysis of the heterogeneity of the sciences, his discussion of the merely "quasi" sciences such as evolutionary psychology, history and interpretations of quantum theory, and his critiques of the pseudosciences."

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