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Book Review: Science Under Siege PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   

tamyspeakerA new book has just come out that will be of interest to skeptics everywhere. Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience. Edited by Kendrick Frazier, it is a collection of some of the best writing from Skeptical Inquirer from the last few years:

Some of the gems it contains:

  • Carl Sagan’s last Q & A on science and skeptical inquiry.
  • A paean to the wonder and awe of real science by Sagan’s wife, Ann Druyan.
  • An article explaining Ray Hyman’s Categorical Directive: “before we try to explain something, we should make sure it actually happened.”
  • John E. Jones, III’s eloquent decision in the Dover “Intelligent Design” case.
  • An article on AIDS denialism by Nicoli Nattrass, who is director of an AIDS research unit in South Africa and can testify to the incalculable harm denialism has caused her compatriots.
  • Common myths about evolution and how to refute them. The anti-vaccination movement (by Steven Novella).
  • Ray Hyman investigates a girl who claims to have x-ray vision.
  • Benjamin Radford finds natural explanations and succeeds in reassuring the frightened inhabitants of an allegedly haunted house, and Joe Nickel infiltrates Camp Chesterfield in disguise to show how so-called psychics deliberately lie and trick their customers.
  • The patent office myth (that a director quit because there was nothing more to discover) is put to rest once and for all (but can be predicted to rise again).
  • Philosopher Mario Bunge illuminates the philosophy behind pseudoscience, helping define what it is and helping us understand how to think about it.
  • Bruce Flamm destroys what little is left of the fraudulent Columbia University study about prayer and in vitro fertilization.
  • Other subjects include energy medicine, health claims for magnets, bogus oxygen therapies, and the now defunct PEAR study of psychic power over machines.
  • Martin Gardner covers vacuum energy.

Other articles address global warming, a proposal to reduce the cost of energy, and thoughtful essays on how science can contribute to political decisions and even ethical discussions and is essential to the democratic process. There is even a skeptical look at the reaction to 9/11 - with a rebuttal by Steven Pinker and his later revised rebuttal after he changed his mind! Overblown fears (Halloween candy from a stranger never ever hurt a child), animal rights terrorism, and more. My favorite anecdote from the book is Massimo Polidoro’s account of accompanying magician James Randi on a live TV show as he tried to replicate a psychic’s magic trick of reproducing a drawing that was in a sealed envelope. They used controls that they had not applied to the psychic and that prevented the kind of tricks the psychic used. It looked like Randi had been backed into a corner with no way out, but he calmly improvised new methods of deception on the spot and proceeded to astound everyone. It’s a great story.

Highly recommended. Thought-provoking ideas, good writing, and a handy reference.

 

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written by daveg703, June 14, 2009
Skipping quickly past the juvenile offering displayed above, I am pleased to report that I have succumbed to your persuasive oratory- and have ordered the book. smilies/smiley.gif
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First time commentator
written by Ash Keeping, June 15, 2009
I, too, have placed an order for Science Under Siege and await its arrival in anticipation. I wasn’t even aware of some of the interesting stories listed by Harriet Hall, so I don’t want to miss out.
Normally I just like to sit back and enjoy the articles on the JREF site, but that first comment by ‘nosty1999’ (if that is your real name) had me so confused I decided to register today and respond. Then I had to work out what exactly I was responding to. I haven’t been a lay-sceptic for very long, but I do know that research is required before tackling such claims. I followed the links and waded through several Depeche Mode references to ascertain the basis of why this person believes they have earned a million dollars. The evidence seemed to rely on this person using 1990’s British electro-pop to interpret the poems of a 16th Century herbalist in order to retro-fit major world events into an argument for...... something that they're very angry about. Even if this were proved to be true, wouldn’t the money go to the estate of Michel de Nostradame instead? Or am I simply the victim of Mabusian satire?
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@ Ash
written by BillyJoe, June 15, 2009
No, that idiot really believes his nonsense.
Anyway, his post will soon be deleted leaving everyone else to wonder what we're on about.

(How will Dave's opening remarks, "Skipping quickly past the juvenile offering displayed above", look once that post is cut smilies/grin.gif)
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written by Squid, June 15, 2009
I have to wonder if legal action can be taken here... after all, they keep calling the contest fraudulent. Isn't that actionable?

Squid
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written by BillyJoe, June 15, 2009
I don't think he's important enough to bother about.
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@Squid & @BillyJoe
written by StarTrekLivz, June 15, 2009
Under British libel laws, probably fairly easy to make a case. Under American laws, and Free Speech rights, it would not be worth it. Besides, that would give this poor lost soul the attention s/he craves, and a platform to spew nonsense. Sometimes the best reaction is to laugh quietly and then ignore.
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written by JeffWagg, June 15, 2009
His name is Dennis Markuze, and he's from Montreal, Canada. I suspect he may have some mental health issues.
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written by daveg703, June 15, 2009
I hereby authorize Jeff to delete my previous post, now that the obnoxious tripe it referred to is (was?) gone, which will remove any confusion it might have caused in the minds of late arrivals.
However, I will reiterate that I have ordered the book. And, I guess that takes care of business for today. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by Kuroyume, June 15, 2009
Don't feed the mentally ill troll! smilies/wink.gif

I'd purchase this book if I had any spare income. It's getting tight out there people. They're talking about 11% unemployment by next year and the oil companies are being overtly compassionate again (thank you, a*holes). For the trillions we're being asked to foot to save the likes of these corporations, I want a million or two (for every voter). Enough said. Let me get back to work without pay...
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Spare Income Not Needed
written by The SkepDoc, June 15, 2009
You don't have to buy the book to read it. You can get it from your public library. If they don't have a copy, they can get it for you by inter-library loan.
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Kiowa...Colorado? Nah...
written by Kuroyume, June 15, 2009
I'd be surprised if my local library had a single book by Dr. Carl Sagan let alone anything new or useful. That's 11 miles away. The next 'larger' library is Parker, CO which is 40 miles away. Denver, CO is about 64 miles. Oh, to be back in Philly. I could walk to the Main Branch of the Phila. Public Library and get just about anything (even Cosmos on VHS!!).
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Kiowa
written by Diverted Chrome, June 15, 2009
written by Kuroyume, June 15, 2009
"I'd be surprised if my local library had a single book by Dr. Carl Sagan let alone anything new or useful."

Learn to use CARL!! It's the fastest and easiest to use system I've encountered. SYLL.
loc.gov/z3950/carl.html
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written by GeekGoddess, June 15, 2009
If you do choose to buy the book, going through the "JREF Libary" link into Amazon gets the JREF a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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library offerings
written by tctheunbeliever, June 16, 2009
It might be worth checking, koroyume--our libraries here have most of Dawkins' books, in a city where religious fanatics destroy heretical "Windy Man" images on overpasses and the City Council officially prays for rain. We also have a huge, gaudy Mormon Temple.

We get several listings in Texas Monthly's Bum Steer Awards every year.
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written by BillyJoe, June 16, 2009
We also have a huge, gaudy Mormon Temple.
Is this it?

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written by BillyJoe, June 16, 2009
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written by BillyJoe, June 16, 2009
Okay it won't link.
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written by Steel Rat, July 09, 2009
Other articles address global warming


How so? Do they say how dubious statistical practices and refusal to disclose data and methods has create the AGW hype? Somehow I doubt it.
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No...
written by BillyJoe, July 09, 2009
They say how the vast majority of climatologist support the evidence of AGW and how the arguments of the anti-AGW "cranks" are easily defeated by them.

I know they could still be wrong.
But what else does a layman have to go on?

BJ
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written by Steel Rat, July 09, 2009
Well, it's not really the vast majority, it's a vocal few, on both sides. Many are afraid to speak out due to derision. Most of those who do are retired, with no job or funding to lose.
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written by BillyJoe, July 09, 2009
The EPCC report on AGW is quite a broad consensus on this issue.

If there are many that are afraid to speak out, how have you identified them as such. smilies/wink.gif

(What are the numbers? Who are they? If they cannot be identified because they don't speak out, how do you know there are many or, indeed, any?)

Just wondering.

BJ
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written by Steel Rat, July 09, 2009
I'm sure you mean the IPCC, and they're not a consensus. They're a political organization, comprised of a fairly small number of people. Often you might hear the phrase "The IPCC consists of over 2500 scientists" which is incorrect. The 2500 number is the number of lead authors and reviewers, which are appointed by the respective countries. Many of them made comments during the various IPCC reports AR1-AR4 which clearly showed there wasn't a vast majority consensus.

There are other issues, such as the IPCC ignoring review comments, or failing to respond to valid concerns (such as the so-called "hockey stick", which is fundamentally flawed).

Anyway, this isn't an expose' on AGW, I was simply pointing out that science doesn't work on consensus, it works on evidence. The evidence for AGW isn't there, unless you feel that computer models are evidence.
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written by BillyJoe, July 10, 2009
science doesn't work on consensus, it works on evidence.
Unless it is clear cut, as in the Earth being more or less a sphere, it works on a consensus of what the evidence tells us, as with AGW.

Since the IPCC report was issued, this consensus is that there is increasing evidence of AGW.

As I said, they could be wrong, but what else can the layman rely on?

BJ
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written by MarkE, July 28, 2009
IPCC overstates their case. It is incontrovertible that there are serious problems with their data in the first place (e.g. 89% of the surface stations are not compliant with NOAA standards--many are near heat sources and many of those have been "recently" moved). That raises doubt. There is other data which suggests that, in fact, the in vogue AGW theory is simply wrong.

The evidence suggests that we should be skeptical because those who generally are trusted to be so are NOT. For instance, have you heard that temperatures have been falling for a decade (as measured by satellite)?

Feel free to check out www.WattsUpWithThat.com and ClimateAudit.org for ample and in-depth discussion of these issues.

Call me a very concerned skeptic.
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@MarkE
written by Steel Rat, July 28, 2009
Not to mention non-disclosure of data and methods for replicability. It's an atmosphere of "Just trust us".
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