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Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud (Voodoo Science #1)

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,111 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
Science fascinates us by its power to surprise. Occasionally, unexpected results that appear to violate accepted laws of nature can herald revolutionary advances in human knowledge. Many revolutionary discoveries, turn out to be wrong, however, and even eminent scientists have had their careers tarnished, mistakenly thinking that they have made a great discovery. This is p ...more
Paperback, 230 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2000)
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Aug 24, 2008 Lena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This highly readable book is an excellent discussion of how the lack of scientific literacy in America affects all of us.

Physicist Robert Park begins this wide survey of bad science with a discussion of how the media is helping to confuse Americans by regularly covering stories of exciting, but highly improbable, scientific claims. In a detailed discussion of the cold fusion disaster of 1989, he then goes on to look at basic human nature and how wishful thinking on the part of a scientist can l
Jan 12, 2010 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
In 1983, Robert Park, then chairman of the Department of Physics at the University of Maryland, agreed to set up and direct a Washington office of public affairs for the American Physics Society. This book evolved as a result of his continuing efforts in that role for the next 16 years, synthesizing material from weekly bulletins, op-ed columns and various articles in the popular press.

Park is refreshingly clear that he is not writing for other scientists. His target audience is the general, no
Jun 13, 2009 Hilary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maura
Shelves: non-fiction, science, own, 2009

Is there anything it can't do?

Voodoo Science offered an in depth look into the pseudoscience the plagues the National conscious. The book examined some of the more popular aspects of pseudoscience (i.e. perpetual motion machines, homeopathy, Roswell, etc.) and the reasons why such claims are inherently false. Throughout the book a nod is given to the scientific method, as well as a sobering account of why such a method is importance.

Scientists are not cast as infallible, but rather as hu
Apr 11, 2010 Alisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alisha by: Rachel Brisson
Shelves: self-education, 2010

Very much a fan of his explanations on homeopathic medicine and energy field cleansing, not to mention how the media "dumbs down" society in terms of actual scientific logic, findings and theory.

Some of it was a little heady for me because I am NOT strong personally in science, so I had to backtrack a little when I realized my comprehension was down (EMBARAAAASSING).

I liked that he explained WHY we want to believe in voodoo/pseudo/junk science (though his personal lack of
Eric Troy
Jul 16, 2012 Eric Troy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a part which mentions "pseudosymmetry," which is a term coined Christopher Toumey in "Conjuring Science." This is the illusion that scientists are equally divided on claims that may have little or no scientific support. Even in strength training, so much simpler than physics, I am always telling people, "There is no debate here," in regards to ridiculous claims and ideas for which people imagine there are two sides, equal in expertise and number, arguing about it. Fun read.

Shabbeer Hassan
May 12, 2011 Shabbeer Hassan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is written not so much for scientists but more for anyone with an interest in scientific misconduct/fraud. Robert Park writes in "Voodoo Science" that voodoo science has a way of evolving ... from self-delusion to fraud. He uses the term voodoo science to cover them all: pathological science, junk science, pseudoscience, and fraudulent science. In pathological science, scientists fool themselves. Junk science refers to scientists who use their expertise to befuddle and mislead others ( ...more
Sep 04, 2014 Jeannette rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who enjoy Physics, cold fusion and thermodynamics
I've read articles from Robert Park in Skeptics magazines and I saw him as a commentator on Penn & Teller's BullSh!t and so enjoyed what he had to say that I picked up this book. Sadly it was chore for me to get through, which is sad because reading should never be a chore. I would often find that I had gotten to the bottom of a page and not remember anything that was said so I had to go back and reread it. The problem was that I found this book so boring that I had a hard time playing atten ...more
Nov 28, 2010 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fine book on the uses and abuses of science, particularly the latter. Science works on the basis of pattern recognition - once a pattern is recognized in the phenomena being observed, then a valid generalization can be articulated and worked upon.
When it's abused, then erroneous patterns are announced and people act on these questionable or downright wrong assumptions. Errors take place for all kinds of reasons - there is money involved in peddling fraudulent claims, one repeated ma
Oct 28, 2009 Jennn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, 2009
I found this book interesting and very disconcerting. Being a part of society that doesn't exactly understand physics and most sciences (except for my beloved paleontology and geology), I found this book terrifying and eye-opening. It's one thing to say that voodoo science is out there (in all its ambiguity), but it's another thing to be shown examples: this is where you're being screwed and how.

Park is what you'd expect from a Physics professor - a little dry, skeptical, but willing to explain
Todd Martin
Sep 25, 2008 Todd Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Voodoo Science is a well written, entertaining and sarcastic look at many of the popular pseudo–scientific claims people believe despite the fact that no evidence exists to support them. The list includes: homeopathy and magnet therapy, perpetual motion/energy machines, cold fusion, the scientific value of the space station, adverse health affects of magnetic fields, UFOs, quantum intelligence and others. He also provides a good overview of the scientific method and how its self regulating mecha ...more
Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert L. Park

"Voodoo Science" is a very entertaining and informative book that will help people judge which claims are science and which are voodoo. Emeritus professor of physics at the University of Maryland, Robert L. Park take the readers on a ride on forces that seem to conspire to keep alive voodoo science: pathological science, junk science, pseudoscience, and fraudulent science. This enlightening 240-page book is composed of the follo
Jul 02, 2008 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Park tackles a number of scientific hoaxes and examples of just plain bad science in this illuminating book. He examines several different types of "voodoo science," with examples. There are sciencists that apparently starts out well-intentioned, but want so badly to believe in their own results that they ignore flaws in their research, and eventually start falsifying or obscuring evidence; the chapter on cold fusion covers this rather nicely. There are out-and-out hucksters, like the guy ...more
Excelente livro de Robert Park, onde o leitor é confrontado com formas, digamos assim, menos sérias de fazer ciência. São vários os motivos que podem levar um cientista por caminhos menos sérios. Tal como qualquer humano, o investigador tem convicções, que podem interferir no seu julgamento, e pode cometer erros. E se o cientista teima em não reconhecer o seu erro? O que acontece se as suas convicções se sobrepõe a análise imparcial dos resultados obtidos e teima em seguir o caminho que ele ente ...more
A promising book derailed by the author's pet annoyances. I've become very interested in the debunking of pseudoscience and supposedly paranomal phenomenon, probably in large part because of an X-Files hangover. I've read a fair few books in this vein, and I usually enjoy them immensely. For me, skeptical books are far more enlightening and awe-inspiring than any number of paranomal books. This one is fairly well written, but it has one big problem. It keeps coming back to the author's pet peeve ...more
Feb 16, 2011 Margot rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Park discounts "voodoo science" by exploring examples that have surfaced since he's been writing newspaper articles explaining science to the general public. He makes a distinction between foolishness and fraud, with both coming under his umbrella term "voodoo." He reserves the most vitriol for those scientists who intentionally mislead, passing the point of no return when they could have admitted their mistakes. Many of the examples he uses became a menace to the public by attracting the frenzi ...more
Sep 14, 2011 Andres rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book detailing the abysmal scientific knowledge that the average consumer possesses. This results in some extremely beneficial and harmless technologies being demonized and rejected by a public that has no clue as to how they work, yet allow themselves to be swayed by fearmongers with or without an agenda who end up making a living out of their stupidity. On the flip side, it also results in useless, harmful and/or cost-prohibitive technologies being readily adopted and suppo ...more
Paddy Srinivas
For non-scientists like me, this book is very useful. It has small chapters, each one getting to the chase right away.
I learnt several basic things about astronomy, concepts such as:
1. why there are 2 high tides, not just one, every day
2. sun's mass in relation to all other objects in solar system
3. Why astrology could not be true and is such BS
etc. etc.
I am grateful the author for explaining complex concepts in a lucid fashion.
Feb 25, 2008 Nuclearlee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nuclearlee by: Christymae
He blatantly states at the beginning that this book is not for scientists. I really enjoyed reading it, but because it was a lot of stories about stuff I understand already, it was a very slow read. I was too young to remember much about the cold fusion fiasco, so I have to say the story about Pons and Fleischman was the most interesting of all of the depressing stories. I highly recommend this book for people who are either overly optimistic about science (think that science will someday save t ...more
Jan 07, 2016 Darnell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This would be an excellent introduction to critical thinking about science, and because it takes some unexpected turns, it's still interesting even if you're familiar with the topic. Due to its age, however, there's zero discussion of pseudoscience on the internet, which would be a critical component of a book like this written today.
Arianna Rothfuss
Dec 07, 2014 Arianna Rothfuss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was a very interesting read and the author had a great sense of humor. Even though we disagreed on some things, it was still a really good book to read if you are into science and how science is presented in the media.
Richard Thomas
Dec 04, 2014 Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I found this an excellent book which I read almost at a sitting. It was in a way quite frightening to read of the stupidity of the anti scientific minds and the fraudulent ways in which scientific knowledge can be used.
A Phi Beta Kappa summer read recommendation. Much bad science exists in our world, and this book points it out (though it's a bit dated--a 2000 copyright). Leaves me wondering what else I've fallen for since...
Jan 19, 2009 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book encourages critical thinking through blending humor with a careful scientific debunking of various societal myths and mistakes. It touches on the diverse range of "pseudoscience" in the world today, from several of NASA's failed projects, to the folly of Cold Fusion, to homeopathic medicine, and more. While the author is not quite as impartial as he would like readers to believe (he makes a couple prejudiced jabs at general religion/spirituality, for example)he does use good logic and ...more
Sep 20, 2011 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My biggest criticism of this book is that it was dated. Having just finished a Dan Simmon's big space opera quartet, I was hoping to find a grounding in real science. Robert Park fit the bill. Director of some Washington bureau of science, Park takes us for a ride through the scientific process into the fringes of pseudoscience and fraudulent claims. I would have enjoyed more anecdotes; he spent a lot of time talking about three or four different cases. His chapter on space exploration was the m ...more
Darius Baba
Feb 05, 2016 Darius Baba rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome book! It's a nice and thorough journey in the world of pseudoscience. I find it specially helpful and relevant for present times. With the spread of the internet and social networks pseudoscience is like wildfire.
Kylie Martinez
Mar 19, 2015 Kylie Martinez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
A very compelling book. Helps you learn to think critically about everything you encounter, especially when it comes to scientific findings.
Feb 12, 2008 Kaille rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Park has a very engaging writing style, and he's good enough to make me take the time and try to understand the science, rather than skip through it. His explanations I found really clear, actually, and was pretty pleased with myself for 'getting it'.

My real issues were that being that it's his book, it's riddled with his biases. I agree with them, but that doesn't make it less biased. I also felt like he took forever and a half to actually get to the meat of the Cold Fusion story. Park, if you'
Sara Gauldin
Nov 05, 2013 Sara Gauldin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an in-depth look at the cultural acceptance of false of pseudo-science that is allowed to take the place of authentic and quantitative scientific methodology. The Author sites many intriguing examples of studies and products that are hailed publicly as a scientific breakthrough, but in reality, they have little or no validity when examined using the scientific method. The common thread is the lack of possibility of refuting or replicating the proclaimed results, either through veile ...more
Steve Dustcircle
Excellent debunking of some pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, however there was so much that was left out that should have been included.
Caroline Ure
I read this book for a class at BYU entitled "Voodoo Science: the Underpinnings of Modern Scientific Thought" and in my opinion, the book is really well-written and extremely enlightening. Park uses concrete examples to prove his points and in the end, there is no doubt that the book is well-researched and that Park knows what he's talking about. Although it contains some bias, that doesn't detract from the overall effectiveness of the ultimate message: those who present extraordinary claims mus ...more
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Robert Lee Park is an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park and a former Director of Public Information at the Washington office of the American Physical Society. Park is most noted for his critical commentaries on alternative medicine and other pseudoscience, as well as his criticism of how legitimate science is distorted or ignored by the media, some scientist ...more
More about Robert L. Park...

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