Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

Synopsis

In a time of dazzling scientific progress, how can we separate genuine breakthroughs from the noisy gaggle of false claims? From Deepak Chopra's "quantum alternative to growing old" to unwarranted hype surrounding the International Space Station, Robert Park leads us down the back alleys of fringe science, through the gleaming corridors of Washington power and even into our evolutionary past to search out the origins of voodoo science. Along the way, he offers simple and engaging science lessons, proving that you don't have to be a scientist to spot the fraudulent science that swirls around us. While remaining highly humorous, this hard-hitting account also tallies the cost: the billions spent on worthless therapies, the tax dollars squandered on government projects that are doomed to fail, the investors bilked by schemes that violate the most fundamental laws of nature. But the greatest cost is human: fear of imaginary dangers, reliance on magical cures, and above all, a mistaken view of how the world works. To expose the forces that sustain voodoo science, Park examines the role of the media, the courts, bureaucrats and politicians, as well as the scientific community. Scientists argue that the cure is to raise general scientific literacy. But what exactly should a scientifically literate society know? Park argues that the public does not need a specific knowledge of science so much as a scientific world view--an understanding that we live in an orderly universe governed by natural laws that cannot be circumvented.

Excerpt

In 1982, William (Willy) Fowler, a Cal Tech physicist whose seminal work on elemental abundances would be recognized with a Nobel Prize a year later, called me to ask if I would use my sabbatical year to establish an office of public affairs in Washington for the American Physical Society. Physicists needed to be kept informed of developments in Washington that were having a profound effect on them and the things they value. Perhaps, he said, it would also be possible to communicate the concerns of the physics community, not just to the leaders of government but to the public.

It was to be an experiment. Through most of its existence, the American Physical Society, then headquartered in New York, had not felt the need for a Washington presence, but times were changing. Public support for science had begun unraveling during the Vietnam War. Scien-

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