O que é Paranormal
e Pseudociência?


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LIVROS
Paranormal e Pseudociência


Por que as pessoas acreditam em coisas estranhas?

Por Michael Shermer


A pergunta, que dá título ao primeiro livro do cético Michael Shermer editado no Brasil, não poderia ser mais apropriada.

Há um bocado de gente que nada tem de anormal e, no entanto, participa de crenças muitas vezes absurdas. Compreender as razões do paradoxo não é tarefa pequena. E Shermer, que é também psicólogo e ciclista, se sai muito bem ao explicá-las.

Ele começa com um competente apanhado geral do método científico, explica a diferença entre ciência e pseudociências e traz um inventário das falácias que mais frequentemente nos induzem a erro.

É em seguida que vem a parte mais divertida, quando Shermer se põe a desmontar algumas das "confusões de nossos tempos". As barafundas escolhidas pelo autor são: experiências de quase morte, abduções por alienígenas, o resgate de memórias de abuso infantil, o criacionismo, a negação do holocausto nazista, entre outros.

O texto original é de 1997, e algumas das superstições não envelheceram bem. A história de recuperar memórias reprimidas de maus-tratos e estupros durante a infância foi febre nos EUA nos anos 90, mas não foi tão importante no Brasil.

Já outros temas permanecem assustadoramente presentes. A onda neocriacionista, por exemplo, chegou até nós com um certo atraso em relação aos EUA, mas segue provocando estragos.

Shermer tem uma vantagem comparativa em relação a outros céticos modernos. Ele em nenhum momento debocha das crenças descritas, mesmo as mais exóticas. Diz que tirou essa máxima do filósofo holandês do século 17 Spinoza, que escreveu: "Tenho me esforçado sempre para não ridicularizar, não deplorar, não desprezar as ações humanas, mas tentar compreendê-las".

O autor conquista a confiança e a simpatia do leitor declarando-se ele próprio um ex-praticante de várias das terapias alternativas que critica no livro. Mesmo no capítulo dedicado ao criacionismo, cujo tema de fundo é a religião, Shermer "pega leve", evitando a propaganda ateia. Ele próprio admite nutrir alguma simpatia para com a religião, reminiscências dos tempos em que era um cristão renascido e graduou-se em teologia antes de migrar para a psicologia.

O ponto alto do livro, porém, é quando ele explica a psicologia da crença e mostra por que, muitas vezes, são as pessoas mais inteligentes que se envolvem com as mais alucinadas esquisitices.

"Pessoas inteligentes acreditam em coisas estranhas porque têm capacidade para defender crenças às quais chegaram por razão não inteligentes", escreve ele.

Brochura - 384 páginas (2011)
ISBN: 978-85-85985-30-1
Preço: R$ 65,00

 


O mundo assombrado pelos demônios

Por Carl Sagan


Assombrado com a escuridão que parece tomar conta do mundo, onde explicações pseudocientíficas e místicas ocupam ocupam cada vez mais os espaços dos meios de comunicação, Carl Sagan acende a vela do conhecimento científico para tentar iluminar os dias de hoje e recuperar os valores da racionalidade. Em meio a anjos e ETs, astrólogos e médiuns, fundamentalismos religiosos e filosofias alternativas, dois mais dois continuam a ser quatro e as leis da mecânica quântica permanecem valendo em qualquer parte do planeta. Este livro é uma reafirmação plena do poder positivo e benéfico da ciência e da tecnologia.

Brochura - 446 páginas (1996)
ISBN: 8571646066
Preço: R$ 25,92

 


Como a mente funciona

Por Steven Pinker


Pinker, professor de Psicologia e diretor do Centro de Neurociência Cognitiva no Instituto Tecnológico de Massachussetts, entrega-se à difícil tarefa de definir como a mente trabalha, e como ela faz as pessoas se comportarem de uma ou outra maneira.

Já nos primeiros capítulos acende a polêmica quando equipara o cérebro humano a um computador, ao explicar como se produzem no córtex os processos da visão, da audição e do movimento. Mas a polêmica aumenta à medida que avança a leitura, quando o autor demonstra que expressões tais como a fé, a organização política e, inclusive, o comportamento sexual, têm a ver unicamente com a forma pela qual a mente trata de manter a sobrevivência do homem como espécie e como indivíduo, depois de um processo natural de evolução ao longo de milhares de anos.

Na sua obra anterior "O instinto da linguagem", Pinker afirmou que a mente está naturalmente programada para a aprendizagem e para produzir uma linguagem. Agora em seu novo livro, apresenta-a como um sistema organizado, composto por "órgãos mentais", isto é, estruturas neurais projetadas para resolver os problemas que os primeiros homens enfrentavam em seu difícil estilo de vida, tais como entender e manipular objetos, animais, plantas e outros seres humanos.

Assim, o especialista se serve de décadas de pesquisa científica e constrói uma "teoria computacional da mente", imaginando que o cérebro humano se comporta de um modo similar a como fazem os PCs. Assim, existiriam "módulos" ou "agentes cerebrais" compostos por milhares de neurônios maciçamente interconectados trabalhando em padrões sequenciados, igual a como os chips se estruturam na CPU (Unidade de Processamento Central) de um computador. Ditos agentes devem levar a cabo tarefas complicadas, tão diversas como detectar as bordas de uma figura que está sendo vista, situar-se e avaliar a situação e expressar sentimentos de tristeza. Enfim: pode-se abarcar toda uma faixa de atividades - incluindo as sensações e emoções - das quais o cérebro é o único encarregado de controlar. Por isso, Pinker denomina o cérebro como "o órgão mental" e o considera um verdadeiro "computador orgânico".

Os últimos capítulos do livro são os que despertam controvérsia. Pinker sustenta que tudo aquilo que, em teoria, define os seres humanos como tais, incluindo as que são consideradas as mais elevadas faculdades do cérebro (tais como a arte, a filosofia, a linguagem, a religião, ou expressar emoções como amar ou odiar), nada mais são que o fruto de milhões de anos de evolução e condicionamento.

Brochura - 666 páginas (1998)
ISBN: 8571648468
Preço: R$ 38,50

 


Ciências versus pseudociências

Paulo Lee

Este é um dos poucos livros em português a abordar de forma prática a questão do pensamento crítico e das pseudociências. Paulo inicialmente apresenta um resumo das concepções filosóficas ligadas à Ciência e no capítulo seguinte define as pseudociências e apresenta críticas às suas mais populares representantes: astrologia, homeopatia, ufologia etc. Também são apresentados conceitos importantes para a compreensão de como as pseudociências parecem apresentar resultados aparentemente comprobatórios: efeito Forer, pensamento seletivo, leitura fria, efeito placebo. Os textos sobre as pseudociências são enxutos e de fácil leitura tornando este livro uma leitura interessante para estudantes que, a partir das críticas e dos conceitos apresentados, estarão aptos a se defender de outras pseudociências.

O grande diferencial deste livro, que é resultado da tese de mestrado do autor, é apontar soluções que vão além de culpar os meios de comunicação, os grandes divulgadores das pseudociências. As pessoas que possuem educação formal deveriam, em sua maioria, estar "vacinadas" contra alegações pseudocientíficas. Por que isso não ocorre? A ausência de conhecimento adequado sobre filosofia da Ciência, método científico e pensamento crítico por parte de professores e alunos de Ciências naturais são uma das principais razões para a crescente credulidade da população apesar do progresso científico presente nas vidas de todos. Os profissionais da Ciência parecem utilizar o pensamento crítico somente da porta do laboratório para dentro. Doutores em Química tratam os filhos com homeopatia, físicos acreditam em astrologia... Não é de se admirar, afinal a maioria dos cursos universitários de Ciências naturais (Química, Física, Biologia etc) não possuem nenhuma cadeira dedicada a Filosofia da Ciência, método científico e pensamento crítico. Estes são os futuros professores de nível médio que simplesmente se limitarão a apresentar aos estudantes somente fórmulas decoradas para resolver exercícios que não possuem aplicação prática nenhuma na vida dos estudantes.

Paulo sugere que os professores de nível médio devem estimular a discussão sobre as pseudociências à luz da metodologia científica e em oposição às verdadeiras Ciências, assim como sobre a evolução das teorias científicas ao longo da História como forma de diminuir o nível geral de credulidade e de mostrar que a Ciência é viva, deixando para trás as idéias equivocadas, ao contrário das pseudociências.

Ciências versus pseudociências, de Paulo Lee, é um lançamento da Editora Gráfica Expoente Ltda (Pinhais – PR), tem 224 páginas e custa R$ 25. Contatos com o autor no site Adoro Física e e-mail plee@onda.com.br.

 



A mente assombrada

Oliver Sacks

Você já viu algo que não estava realmente lá? Ouviu alguém chamar seu nome em uma casa vazia? Sentiu que havia alguém atrás de você e se virou para encontrar nada? As alucinações não pertencem inteiramente ao campo da loucura. Frequentemente, estão ligadas a privações sensoriais, intoxicações, doenças ou lesões. Pessoas que sofrem de enxaqueca podem ver arcos brilhantes ou pequenas figuras humanas e de animais. Ao mesmo tempo, deficientes visuais podem viver imersos em um mundo visual alucinatório. As alucinações podem ser provocadas por uma simples febre ou até mesmo pelos prosaicos atos de despertar e adormecer, em imagens que vão de manchas coloridas a belos rostos ou monstros terríveis. Pessoas de luto podem receber reconfortantes 'visitas' de entes queridos. Em alguns casos, as alucinações levam a epifanias religiosas ou até mesmo à sensação de se deixar o próprio corpo. Por milhares de anos essas visões intrigaram e seduziram a humanidade, e não foram poucos os que usaram compostos alucinógenos para alcançá-las. Como um jovem médico na Califórnia da década de 1960, o interesse de Oliver Sacks por psicodélicos era tão profissional quanto pessoal. Foi essa inquietação, ao lado de suas experiências iniciais com a enxaqueca, que o lançou em uma investigação de vida inteira sobre as variações e desdobramentos da experiência com as drogas. Em 'A mente assombrada', Sacks entrelaça histórias de seus pacientes com as próprias experiências para mostrar o que as alucinações nos dizem sobre a organização e a estrutura de nosso cérebro, como elas influenciaram a cultura, o folclore e a arte. Em suma, como o potencial para a alucinação que reside em todos nós é parte vital da condição humana.

A mente assombrada, de Oliver Sacks, é um lançamento da Companhia das Letras, tem 264 páginas e custa R$ 45.

 



Pseudoscience and the Paranormal

by Terence Hines



In this updated and expanded edition of Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, the most comprehensive and up-to-date work of its kind, psychologist and neuroscientist Terence Hines explores the question of evidence for the paranormal and delves beyond it to one that is even more puzzling: Why do people continue to believe in the reality of the supernatural despite overwhelming evidence that it does not exist?"

Critiquing the whole range of current paranormal claims, this carefully researched, thorough review of pseudoscience and the paranormal in contemporary life shows readers how to carefully evaluate such claims in terms of scientific evidence.

This scholarly yet readable volume is an invaluable reference work for students and general readers alike.

Paperback - 500 pages (March 2003)
ISBN: 1573929794
Price: US$ 14.70
 



The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal

by Gordon Stein, Ph.D.

As the first comprehensive encyclopedia of the paranormal written from a scientific perspective, this valuable reference resource contains over 90 articles contributed by scientists, theologians, philosophers, magicians, historians, and other noted scholars. The topics covered include the strictly paranormal (channelling levitation, astrology, palmistry, phrenology, psychokinesis); the historical (mediums, psychic research, Houdini, alchemy); the philosophical (reincarnation, survival of death, miracles); and work on investigatory photography, the media, statistics, and the Bermuda Triangle.

Each article contains valuable citations of the relevant literature, plus suggestions for further reading. Authors present the major arguments, pro and con, with respect to each issue and a conclusion is reached on the merits of the evidence. When no clear conclusion is possible, the question remains open. Written in a non-technical manner, this definitive work offers the latest and most informed examination ever of the paranormal.

Contributors include James Alcock, Robert Baker, Stephen Barrett, Susan Blackmore, Gene Emery, Tom Flynn, Kendrick Frazier, Christopher French, Martin Gardner, Terence Hines, Joe Nickell, Robert Shaeffer, Russell Trimble, Joel Wallman, and others.


Hardback - 859 pages (1996)
ISBN: 1-57392-021-5
Price: US$ 70.00 (used)
 



Fire in the Brain: Clinical Tales of Hallucination

by Ronald K. Siegel

 

A beautiful pianist hears her music drowned out by the voice of God. A young woman calmly watches the gang rape of her girlfriend and herself. A shy schoolboy turns to his invisible best friend to wreak bloody vengeance. In Fire in the Brain, Ronald K. Siegel shows how even the sober brain can create the sights and sounds of artificial heavens and hells. Here we find gods and demons, living playmates and dead friends, even UFOs -- all astonishingly vivid yet entirely illusory. With the wit and compassion of Oliver Sacks and with psychological detective work worthy of Sherlock Holmes, Siegel reveals the topography of the hallucinatory world through seventeen riveting case histories. Readers will meet a young girl who insists that a dragon named Chopsticks is her frequent companion; a pool shark desperate to discover the trigger for his horrifying LSD flashbacks; and an elderly woman whose doppelganger rescues her from a violent intruder at the eleventh hour. Their stories, and over a dozen more, reveal the commonalities of the hallucinating brain, whether our hallucinations are induced by drugs, dreams, severe trauma, or the delirium of illness. Omni magazine said that the author "probably knows more about how drugs work than anyone else alive." In this masterfully orchestrated blend of scientific fact and bizarre yet compelling anecdotes, Siegel demonstrates that his brilliance goes beyond psychopharmacology into the fascinating natural workings--as well as the dark side--of the human mind.

Paperback - 275 pages (1993)
ISBN: 0-452-26953-9
Price: US$ 3.25 (used)
 



A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology

Edited by Paul Kurtz

A plethora of books has been published by and for those who support belief in psychic phenomena. Many people in modern society are convinced that paranormal realities exist. Old wives' tales and legends have been used for centuries to interpret these uncommon phenomena. A scientific approach is all too rarely considered. Can psychic phenomena and other "inexplicable happenings" be tested by methods of scientific verification?

A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology is the first comprehensive collection of essays by many of the world's leading skeptics and parapsychologists. It combines a detailed history of parapsychology and psychic research with a broad view of the current status of the field.

Where does parapsychology stand today? Is parapsychology a science? Has ESP been demonstrated? Does psychic power exist? What do the skeptics have to say about the work of J.B. Rhine, S.G. Soal, the British Society for Psychical Research, and other research in parapsychology? How do they view such well-known "psychic" personalities as Eusapia Palladino, the Fox sisters, and Uri Geller? What are the skeptical evaluations of extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, ghosts, near-death experiences, life after death, poltergeists, "psychic detectives," and other paranormal claims?

Although a large majority of the essays have been written expressly for this volume, some classical skeptical pieces are included, such as the confessions of Margaret Fox Kane and Douglas Blackburn.

The contributors are predominantly skeptical of psychic claims, but some parapsychologists have been included to defend the parapsychological point of view. Among the twenty-nine contributors are Ray Hyman, C.E.M. Hansel, Martin Gardner, James Randi, James Alcock, John Beloff, Susan Blackmore, E.J. Dingwall, Trevor H. Hall, and Antony Flew.


Paperback - 727 pages (December 1, 1985)
ISBN: 0-87975-300-5
Price: US$ 22.44
 



In Search of the Light: The Adventures of a Parapsychologist

by Susan Blackmore



When Dr. Blackmore wrote the first edition of this book ten years ago her intention was clear. She reckoned there must be many other young people searching for something science did not give them, and turning to the paranormal and the New Age. She admits that she had learned the hard way what happens when you put psychic phenomena to the test and wanted to share her experiences with those other hopeful people.

As a student, Blackmore was convinced of the reality of astral planes, telepathy, and life-after-death. In a determined effort to demonstrate paranormal phenomena she tested young children in play groups, trained students in imagery and altered states of consciousness, and even put Tarot cards to the test. She visited haunted houses and was regressed to a 'past life'

In Search of the Light is a simple personal story of how an ardent believer in all things weird and wonderful put her own beliefs on the line and ended up having to change them.

Paperback - 286 pages (May 1996)
ISBN: 1573920614
Price: US$ 16.11
 



Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?
Discourses on Reflexology, Numerology, Urine Therapy, and Other Dubious Subjects

by Martin Gardner



Twenty-eight lively Gardner essays, all but one from his columns in the Skeptical Inquirer magazine. They´re grouped into ten topics: evolution versus creationism, astronomy (The Star of Bethlehem), physics (the egg-balancing mystery), medical matters, psychology (Freudianism, Jean Houston), social science (Alan Sokal´s Hilarious Hoax, Carlos Castaneda), UFOs (Courtney Brown, Heaven´s Gate), more fringe science (Temple University´s Center for Frontier Sciences), religion, and The Last Word ("Science and the Unknowable.")

Even if you read them in the original version, you will find Gardner´s Addendums (some quite extensive) to almost every essay well worth reading for updated information, reactions to the original, and his responses.

Hardcover - 320 pages (October
ISBN: 0393049639
Price: US$ 21.56

 


Real-Life X-Files: Investigating the Paranormal

by Joe Nickell



Anyone who has ever watched and enjoyed an episode of the long-running TV series The X- Files will find Nickell's book even more entertaining and delightful. There is a major difference between the TV tales and the stories in Nickell's work, however. While the X-Files are fiction, Nickell's accounts are true. Whoever said that the truth is both stranger and more entertaining than fiction describes this book exactly. The cases that Nickell investigates are not only as exciting as the show but they are also much more satisfying if one is also a lover of mysteries and enjoys watching a first-rate mind systematically track down and expose the fakirs and mountebanks who attempt to mystify and deceive us.

Consisting of forty-seven short chapters or investigations, the work is not only an antidote to anyone infected with belief in the paranormal or supernatural but it is also a mini-education in how to go about successfully investigating and clarifying claims of haunted houses, UFO appearances, mysterious lights, encounters with the dead, spontaneous human combustion, alien abductions, crop circles, alleged psychics and visionaries, weeping statues and stigmata, and miracle workers of various kinds.

Nickell, a former private detective, professional magician, and an authority on the detection of forged documents, brings this training and experience to bear in his investigations. For cases in which Nickell's broad and deep experience does not suffice he invents ingenious new approaches to solve the mysteries he faces. Opposed to the armchair and "debunking" approaches in all his investigations, Nickell uses a "hands-on" approach, supplementing most of his investigations with explanatory drawings and photographs.

Covering a period of well over thirty years, none of the investigations in this book have been anthologized before. Others have never been reported so fully, and regular readers of Nickell's columns in SKEPTlCAL INQUlRER and Skeptical Briefs will be delighted with some of the new material and the results of his appearances on various TV talk shows.

In this regard one of the most amusing incidents of all was Nickell's confrontation with an alleged clairvoyant on the infamous Jerry Springer Show. The so-called psychic claims to be able to "read" the contents of a locked refrigerator he had never seen before. Though the "psychic" appeared to be quite successful in demonstrating psychic abilities, he was totally incapable of passing Nickell's simple test of reading a three-letter word on a card in a sealed envelope. The verbal exchange between Nickell, the alleged psychic, and Springer is hilarious.

Also delightful is Nickell's exposure of the scam artists in The Gypsies' "Great Trick." Nickell's version of this impressive "fooler" has been shown on the Discovery channel several times. Nickell's investigation of the notorious Flatwoods UFO monster is another classic example of human credulity and demonstrates how effective a little suggestion can be when naive and untrained observers con-front the unknown.

These unusual and mysterious detective stories are suffused with the author's wit and engaging sense of humor. As he notes in his introduction, "I joke that I have been in more haunted houses than Casper and have even caught a few 'ghosts.' "

Nickell has never shied away from getting himself personally involved in some of the more daring and adventurous aspects of the cases he's studying. He has, for example, inflicted "stigmata" on himself with a knife, put sharp crystals under his eyelids, walked across a twenty-five-foot bed of fiery coals, and he has even appeared -- not once -- but twice on The Jerry Springer Show! If this isn't a display of the limits of human courage this reviewer doesn't know what is!

Above all, these investigations are predicated on a rational, scientific approach and, in his words, "since proving a negative is difficult (often impossible), the burden of proof must fall on whomever advances the claim. In addition, the maxim that 'extraordinary proof,' must apply, meaning that evidence must be commensurate with the extent of a claim. The principle of 'Occam's razor' also applies; it holds that the simplest tenable explanation -- the one requiring the fewest assumptions -- is to be preferred as most likely correct."

Nickell has followed these principles and has applied them in all of the investigations recounted in this book. Readers familiar with Nickell's other books will not want to miss this one, and those readers who have never been so fortunate as to have encountered this master of "explaining the bizarre" are in for a treat!

[Robert A. Baker, in "Book Reviews " - Skeptical Inquirer, July/August 2002]

Cloth - 326 pages
ISBN: 0-8131-2210-4
Price: US$ 19.25

 


An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural: James Randi's Decidedly Skeptical Definitions of Alternate Realities

by James Randi



In this remarkable encyclopedia, James Randi casts his cynical eye on the dubious genes of the occult and the supernatural. With 666 entries and hundreds of illustrations throughout, this book examines the shady world of manipulators, occultists, and shamanists in microscopic detail. Topics include Jeane Dixon's long string of failed predictions, the elaborate hoax surrounding the mystery of the Abominable Snowman, and much more.


Paperback - 336 pages (April 1997)
ISBN: 0312151195
Price: US$ 11.96

 


Reincarnation - A critical examination
By Paul Edwards


Edwards, noted philosopher and editor of the definitive "Encyclopedia of Philosophy" (1967), tackles the concepts of reincarnation and karma with erudition, energy, and wit. His aim is to test the logical standing of reincarnation--and, in passing, the survival of consciousness beyond physical death--as a rational system of belief based on unambiguous evidence. Some of the eschatological flaws he finds are rarely discussed in writings by proponents: Who decides in what form an individual will be reborn? What physical or paraphysical process accomplishes this rebirth? Why are a person's ego and memory reset to zero each time? Edwards examines the evidence that supports reincarnation--dejavu, child prodigies, hypnotic regressions and progressions, birthmarks, spontaneous memories, and near-death experiences--and discovers that all is easily accounted for by other scenarios. The Bridey Murphy case, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Raymond Moody, and Stanislav Grof are subjected to some shattering criticism. Only Dr. Ian Stevenson, who has investigated the subject since the early 1970s, gets credit for professionalism and integrity, if not flawless methodology. Skeptic and reincarnationist alike will find this book enjoyable and challenging.

 
Hardcover - 313 pages (1996, 2002 2nd. edition)
ISBN: 1-57392-921-2
Price: US$ 18.70

 


The Real Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup

by Philip J. Klass



Called "the Sherlock Holmes of UFOlogy", Philip J. Klass claims to have the inside scoop on what really crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 and the subsequent cover-up. And is Klass's story the same as that recently released by government officials? We'll all have to read the book to find out! Photos.


Hardcover - 240 pages (October 1997)
ISBN: 1573921645
Price: US$ 18.71

 


They Call It Hypnosis

by Robert Allen Baker



Psychologist Baker traces the history and current status of hypnosis, reviewing the role played by suggestion and examining the major contemporary theories and misconceptions regarding the phenomenon. Current research points to the conclusion that there is no state of altered consciousness produced by hypnosis and that what we term hypnosis is in fact a complex hybrid of social compliance, relaxation, and suggestibility that can account for many esoteric behavioral manifestations, including such occult behavior as past-life regression, UFO "abduction," channeling, and glossolalia (speaking in "tongues").


Hardcover - 313 pages (July 1990)
ISBN: 0879755768
Price: US$ 31.95

 


How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science

by Michael Shermer



Social scientist Shermer - publisher of Skeptic magazine, a born-again Christian, atheist and now agnostic - is uniquely equipped to carry out this comprehensive analysis of the nature of belief from many viewpoints, especially the scientific. Contrary to Nietzsche's proclamation and Time magazine's 1966 rephrasing of it as the question, "Is God dead?" and to the ascendancy of science, technology and secular education, Shermer presents evidence that "God is alive and well."

In 1998 Shermer and MIT social scientist Frank Sulloway conducted a comprehensive survey of more than 1,700 respondent members of the Skeptics Society, which Shermer directs, to answer the question of how and why people believe in God, followed up by a similar exhaustive poll of 10,000 randomly chosen Americans. People say that they believe in God because of the good design, beauty and complexity of the universe but that other people believe in God because of emotional need and comfort. Shermer, in the book's longest chapter, which cogently presents 10 philosophical arguments (each accompanied by a counter-argurment) for the existence of God, concludes that "the 'God question' remains as insoluble today as it ever was." From both personal and professional experience he attests to the futility of trying either to prove or disprove God's existence. His primary focus is not whether people believe or not but how and why they have made their particular choice. He also explores the relation between science and religion, how the search for the sacred originated and how it can thrive in our present "age of science." He concludes that "people believe in God because we are pattern-seeking [even when such patterns do not exist], storytelling, mythmaking, religious, moral animals." When asked by believers why he abandoned Christianity and how he finds meaning in the apparently meaningless universe presented by science, he says: "The conjunction of losing my religion, finding science, and discovering glorious contingency was remarkably empowering and liberating. It gave me a sense of joy and freedom. Freedom to think for myself".

Hardcover - 302 pages (2000, 2003 2nd. edition)
W. H. Freeman & Co.

Price: US$ 12.24

 


Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

by Robert Park



A past chair of both the physics and the astronomy departments at the University of Maryland, Park is probably best known to science policy insiders, members of the media, and the interested public for his weekly e-mail bulletin "What's New," archived and maintained at the American Physical Society (A.P.S.) Web site. With his close proximity to Washington, D.C., Park has had a Zelig-like ability over the past two decades to pop up on the scene in a number of science-related controversies, often detailing many of his adventures and insider observations in "What's New." Heavy with wit, sly spin, and useful information not reported in the mass media, each edition of "What's New" ends with Park's trademark signature disclaimer: "Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the A.P.S., but they should be."

Voodoo Science, Park's first book intended for a general readership, is a 200-page essay on foibles, fads, and frauds related to a range of pseudoscientific claims. Written at times in the first-person, Park details his experience as an expert witness before Congress, media spokesperson, and combatant over the truth of competing claims. Among various topics, he writes on media sensationalism, free energy claims, junk science in the courtroom, homeopathy, cold fusion, and government support for bogus science projects.

Park's public advocacy as a scientist was welcomed among many science enthusiasts and members of the science community. His ability to communicate effectively and provocatively both in his book and through the media drew comparisons to Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan. "He is one of the gems of the whole skeptical and critical thinking movement," magician and friend James Randi told the Baltimore Sun. "Like Carl Sagan, he is an accredited scientist with considerable clout who is actually willing to stick his neck out." "Most of the scientists don't give a damn. They have no notion of how the real world works. Bob wouldn't know an ivory tower if it fell on him. He's a real caring person who wants to get the word out there," said Randi.

Author Ed Regis described Voodoo Science in a review for the New York Times as "droll and enlightening," adding that the book was "chock-full of the latest pseudoscientific hoaxes, scams and cases of sheer foolishness. Nothing and nobody are safe from Park's gaze, which ranges across the absurd and the sublime with equal impartiality…."

Hardcover - 230 pages (May 15, 2000)
ISBN: 0195135156

Price: US$ 20.00

 


The Skeptic's Dictionary

by Robert Todd Carroll



Featuring close to 400 definitions, arguments, and essays on topics ranging from acupuncture to zombies, The Skeptic’s Dictionary is a lively, commonsense trove of detailed information on all things supernatural, occult, paranormal, and pseudoscientific. It covers such categories as alternative medicine; cryptozoology; extraterrestrials and UFOs; frauds and hoaxes; junk science; logic and perception; New Age energy; and the psychic. For the open-minded seeker, the soft or hardened skeptic, and the believing doubter, this book offers a remarkable range of information that puts to the test the best arguments of true believers.

The author, Robert Todd Carrol, is the chairman of the philosophy department at Sacramento City College in California. He began publishing his skeptical writings on the Internet in 1994. His site, skepdic.com, has developed an international following and receives more than 500,000 hits a month. Carroll is also the author of Becoming a Critical Thinker: A Guide for the New Millennium. He lives in Davis, California.


Paperback - 446 pages (August 15, 2003)
ISBN: 0471272426

Price: US$ 13.97

 

 

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