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Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (Popular Science) [Kindle Edition]

Martin Gardner
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This fair and witty appraisal examines some of the crazes and quackeries that have masqueraded as science. Discussions include hollow earth theories; Charles Fort and the Fortean Society; Wilhelm Reich and orgone sex energy; dianetics; flying saucers; food and medical fads; much more. "A very able and even-tempered presentation." — The New Yorker.

Product Description

About the Author

Martin Gardner was a renowned author who published over 70 books on subjects from science and math to poetry and religion. He also had a lifelong passion for magic tricks and puzzles. Well known for his mathematical games column in Scientific American and his "Trick of the Month" in Physics Teacher magazine, Gardner attracted a loyal following with his intelligence, wit, and imagination. Martin Gardner: A Remembrance The worldwide mathematical community was saddened by the death of Martin Gardner on May 22, 2010. Martin was 95 years old when he died, and had written 70 or 80 books during his long lifetime as an author. Martin's first Dover books were published in 1956 and 1957: Mathematics, Magic and Mystery, one of the first popular books on the intellectual excitement of mathematics to reach a wide audience, and Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, certainly one of the first popular books to cast a devastatingly skeptical eye on the claims of pseudoscience and the many guises in which the modern world has given rise to it. Both of these pioneering books are still in print with Dover today along with more than a dozen other titles of Martin's books. They run the gamut from his elementary Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing, which has been enjoyed by generations of younger readers since the 1980s, to the more demanding The New Ambidextrous Universe: Symmetry and Asymmetry from Mirror Reflections to Superstrings, which Dover published in its final revised form in 2005. To those of us who have been associated with Dover for a long time, however, Martin was more than an author, albeit a remarkably popular and successful one. As a member of the small group of long-time advisors and consultants, which included NYU's Morris Kline in mathematics, Harvard's I. Bernard Cohen in the history of science, and MIT's J. P. Den Hartog in engineering, Martin's advice and editorial suggestions in the formative 1950s helped to define the Dover publishing program and give it the point of view which — despite many changes, new directions, and the consequences of evolution — continues to be operative today. In the Author's Own Words: "Politicians, real-estate agents, used-car salesmen, and advertising copy-writers are expected to stretch facts in self-serving directions, but scientists who falsify their results are regarded by their peers as committing an inexcusable crime. Yet the sad fact is that the history of science swarms with cases of outright fakery and instances of scientists who unconsciously distorted their work by seeing it through lenses of passionately held beliefs." "A surprising proportion of mathematicians are accomplished musicians. Is it because music and mathematics share patterns that are beautiful?" — Martin Gardner

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1421 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; 2 edition (4 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A73ITVW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #475,089 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Mr. Garder's book is one which makes us laugh at our gullibility. Since this book was up-dated on 1956, much of the information is about old crackpot theories, like Flat-earth cults, or medical cults. It is, however, a true account of contemporary quackery and fringe science, since many of the theories and motivations of the truly eccentric, and sometimes downright fraudulent types, can still be found among many of today's highly popular personalities who, using mass media and their own appeal, continue this trend to advertize oddball ideas and pseudoscience as truths, without allowing any type of validation or independent scrutiny.
We tend to believe we are somewhat safe from eccentrics trying to force their weird theories upon us or our children. We are not. Take the case of Dianetics, which is discussed in Mr. Gardner's book at the time it was just appearing and being promoted by Science Fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. It did to the stablished psychiatric community what Afrocentrism is doing to qualified and professional history research.
It also presents a strong argument in favor of strict, closedly suppervised experimentation for validating new scientific theories, especially when those theories deal with human emotional problems or capabilities (like Repressed Memory and ESP). Probably most tragic for a scientist is discovering he has been deluding himself pursuing validation for his pet theory. He willingly falsifies data or ignores results in orther for his research to come out just right, conforming to his hypothesis. Also, this book emphazises the use of double-blind tests in highly difficult human research, as in the case of Dr. Rhine's ESP studies.
It comes with a word of warning to us all: scientific illiteracy IS dangerous.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timless essays a must-read for all 27 Oct. 1997
By A Customer
Although written in the 1950s, Martin Gardner's Fads and Fallacies is one of the masterpieces of science. Gardner tackles both seriously and humorously the pseudoscience of his day, including flying saucers, flat-earthers, dianetics, medical cults, dowsers, orogonomy, Atlantis historians, and many more. From Trofim Lysenko's efforts to overthrow Darwin's theory of evolution for Lamarck's theory of acquired characteristics in Russia, to the hilarious chapter on Charles Fort's philosophy of "accept everything but believe nothing" in our own country, Gardner paints a marvelous portrait that will make the reader roll their eyes and smile at some people's credulity as well as be shocked at how far some will go to search for and believe in what isn't there. What strikes me as the most prominent thing about this book is that he almost seems to be addresing the pseudoscience/antiscience of our day instead of decades past. In summary, his essays will bring the reader's mind to a more a skeptical level of thinking when faced with current claims that resemble those of yester-year. Gardner's book is a fitting prequel to Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World as it not only debunks the false claims of pseudoscience, but also educates the reader's mind about what real science is while maintaining an apt for wonder.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seminal work in modern scepticism 18 Aug. 2010
By Mr. J. C. Clubb VINE VOICE
First published in 1952 as "In the Name of Science", "Fads and Fallacies" is often cited as the first book written for the scientific or rational sceptical movement. True, as Gardener states in his preface to the first edition, there were prototypical works, but nothing really comprehensively looked at the culture, motivations and nature of pseudoscience, charlatanism and quackery as this book. Most of the major American sceptics see Gardner as the unofficial founder of their movement and he is regularly credited as a huge influence by Michael Shermer and James Randi, who was a good friend of Gardner up until his death in May 2010.

"Fads and Fallacies" is interesting for many different reasons. Firstly I am happy to say that after hearing so much about the book and finally hearing James Randi's touching tribute to Gardner on a sceptical podcast, that the work more than lives up to its reputation. The background it gives on the individual cases, its thorough research and its often wry humour make for a compulsive read. Like other more recent comprehensive sceptical books, like Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things", "Fads and Fallacies" cuts deep into the various cults and characters that purvey pseudoscience and weird theories, and looks for connections between their philosophies. This helps each chapter lead onto the next one. Gardner's overall pattern is to start with what he views as the most eccentric theories and to end with examples of pseudoscience that just fall short of credible science. Likewise he views the characters in his early chapters as barely literate cranks and those at the end as what Michael Shermer and Ben Goldacre ("Bad Science") would term smart people who believe weird and wrong things.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As mad as a window, me. 15 Nov. 2014
Reading this book for the first time as an undergraduate in 1978 - when I thought 'adult' meant 'being sensible' or something like it - this was one of two eye-openers [the other being to realise that my Gran was probably Evil]. Honestly, there seems to be nothing that some human, somewhere, at some time, hasn't believed. This book is a veritable feast of the perverse and the daft: We don't live on Earth, we live IN it (eh?); OBVIOUSLY it is flat; we KNOW there are canals on Mars; Magic is an actual fact; the dead certainly rise and so on. Gardner's style is clear, he doesn't lard the anecdotes as he realises they are quite strong enough, the perpetrators send themselves up. Of course we must have our own misconceptions (Rummy's 'unknown unknowns') but here is a cornucopia of the silly, the over-ambitious, the too-imaginative; the unlucky and all rest of our great species....You will laugh until you cry at these twerps. An amazing freakshow of misguided minds; great fun with an important message about Being Rational smuggled in.
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