Jennifer's Reviews > Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown

Science Friction by Michael Shermer
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's review
Apr 04, 2010

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bookshelves: history, non-fiction, own, science
Read from November 19, 2009 to March 04, 2010 — I own a copy

Many years ago, too far back to remember now, I was watching one of those shows they used to show around Halloween (and are now ubiquitous on cable) about ghosts and ghost hunting or something of that ilk. On that show they interviewed Michael Shermer about why people beleive in mysterious ghosts and aliens and whatnot. He had just published Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, and I was totally entranced by what he had to say.

I ran out and got the book as soon as I can, and never read it.

My husband read it, and ended up getting very involved in the whole Skeptical movement as a result. I still have book:Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time|89281] on my bookshelf, I've started it a few times, but found myself drifting off, unable to pay attention to it. One day, I might just grit my teeth and read the whole thing.

In many ways, this book was much the same. In it Shermer has gleamed some of his best essays and articles dealing with the concept of who's skeptical of the skeptics? They run from confronting the what to call atheists, skeptics, non-beleivers, Brights or whatever you want to call it, to questioning the scientific method, a particularly gripping article about Intelligent Design, and even an odd foray into what really happened on the Bounty and how our own prejudices affect our ability to view history and study cultures and peoples scientifically.

I did find myself engrossed in some of the articles from beginning to end, particularly, Psychic for a Day, Heresies of Science, The New Creationism, and The Hero on the Edge of Forever. Unfortunately though, there were several articles in the book, in particular Spin-Doctoring Science where I almost felt like Shermer was trying too hard to bludgeon his point home.

I know, it's sort of blasphemous to say bludgeoned by data and statistics when you're talking about science, but in several of the articles, Shermer goes off on tangents of data without really explaining how it relates to the article's main point. In the end you just want to ask him to make it stop, you beleive him, really, no more quotes, references, charts or other proof is really going to make a difference. In many ways these sections read more like a college textbook than a collection of essays.

That being said, it's only a small part of this book that falls into this overwhelmed by data problem. Most of the book is terribly readable, and enjoyable. If you art interested in finding out about Skepticism, this may be a good starting place. If you're interested in scientific philosophy this is also a very good book. If you are running for the door the minute anyone throws a chart, or a graph in front of you, perhaps you should pass this one up in favor of more personal and prosaic fare.

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