"Scientific error", says Robert Park, "has a way of evolving... from self-delusion to fraud. I use the term voodoo science to cover them all: pathological science, junk science, pseudoscience, and fraudulent science." In pathological science, scientists fool themselves. Junk science is when scientists use their expertise to befuddle and mislead others (usually juries or lawmakers). Pseudoscience has the trappings of science without any evidence. Fraud is, well, fraud--old-fashioned lying.
Park is well-acquainted with voodoo science in all its incarnations. Since 1982 he has headed the Washington, DC office of the American Physical Society, and he has carried the flag for scientific rationality through cold fusion, homeopathy, "Star Wars," quantum healing, and sundry attempts to repeal the laws of thermodynamics. Park shows why "a disproportionate share of the science seen by the public is flawed" (because shaky science is more likely to skip past peer review and head straight for the media), and gives a good tour of recent highlights in Voodoo. He has a rare ability to poke holes compassionately, without heaping vitriol on those taken in by their fondest wishes. He is less forgiving of scientists when he thinks they've fallen down on the job, which should include helping the public separate the scientific wheat from the voodoo chaff. --Mary Ellen Curtin
I finished this brilliant book within a day, and [...] I went right back to the beginning and started again -- Richard Dawkins
If you want more books on sideways thinking, go straight to Robert Park's excellent Voodoo Science -- New Scientist, November 11, 2000
addictively entertaining...a brave and brilliant quest -- The Times, October 12, 2000
About the Author
Robert L. Park is Professor of Physics and former chairman of the Department of Physics at the University of Maryland. He also directs the Washington office of the American Physical Society. Author of more than a hundred scientific papers on the structure of crystal surfaces, he writes regularly for the New York Times and other newspapers and is a regular contributor of science features for the Washington Post. Professor Park lives in Adelphi, Maryland.
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