Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins
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Astrology...poltergeists and ghosts...firewalking...spontaneous human combustion...psychic surgery...ESP. This is the stuff of tabloid headlines. Sure, many people find them laughable, but consider that these papers are all staying in business because people are buying them-and often believing in their outrageous stories, even labeling it all science. The fact is that not all "science" is created equally. Indeed, some "science" isn't science at all but is really downright bogus-in other words, pseudoscience. However, separating the wheat from the chaff might not be as easy as you think when you consider how many people are seduced by the headlines that surround them in the supermarket line. UFOs and creationism certainly have their advocates among intelligent and educated people. Sometimes, though, wrongly held beliefs can get you into real trouble. Consider the proclamation by Marshall Applewhite: "Planet Earth about to be recycled. Your chance to survive-leave with us."In April 1997, 39 people-believing just that-committed suicide in their communal home in Rancho Sante Fe, California. They hoped to shed their earthly "containers" and be whisked away by extraterrestrials to a spaceship and, ultimately, a higher level of existence. Unfortunately, their tragically misguided belief in the pseudoscientific claim of Marshall Applewhite cost them their lives. "Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction" takes us on a tour of the most notorious instances of pseudoscience and sets the record straight. To clearly demonstrate what is wrong with this brand of ersatz science, the authors look closely at what's right about real science, and then compare the true scientific approach with that of pseudoscience. Readers learn that science's most basic value is that all ideas about reality are subject to testing by experiment and challenge by critical, rational thought.Scientifically literate thinkers accept ideas tentatively. They base their acceptance on evidence rather than on authority. People who are not scientifically literate are more likely to accept ideas absolutely. They are more vulnerable to deficient or phony ideas. "Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction" draws the line between what is good science and what isn't even really science at all. The basis for the book begins with the examination of the five most widely believed pseudoscientific ideas: UFOs, out-of-body experiences, astrology, creationism, and ESP These ideas are reviewed in detail to see just how well they stand up to scientific scrutiny. Cleverly illustrated with cartoons by the renowned Sidney Harris, "Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction" is both wonderful fun as well as illuminating science.Although many science topics can seem mysterious, especially when you really get into the details, in the long run its methods and ideas are remarkably straightforward. "Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction" takes this methodical approach to dissect the worst in the field. Tremendously witty, disarmingly fun, this is a book for anyone-especially for those folks who check their horoscope everyday.
Charles M. Wynn and Arthur W. Wiggins, With Cartoons by Sidney Harris