Nonsense on Stilts

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-05-15
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
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Recent polls suggest that fewer than 40 percent of Americans believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, despite it being one of science’s best-established findings. More and more parents are refusing to vaccinate their children for fear it causes autism, though this link can been consistently disproved. And about 40 percent of Americans believe that the threat of global warming is exaggerated, despite near consensus in the scientific community that manmade climate change is real.

Why do people believe bunk? And what causes them to embrace such pseudoscientific beliefs and practices? Noted skeptic Massimo Pigliucci sets out to separate the fact from the fantasy in this entertaining exploration of the nature of science, the borderlands of fringe science, and—borrowing a famous phrase from philosopher Jeremy Bentham—the nonsense on stilts. Presenting case studies on a number of controversial topics, Pigliucci cuts through the ambiguity surrounding science to look more closely at how science is conducted, how it is disseminated, how it is interpreted, and what it means to our society. The result is in many ways a “taxonomy of bunk” that explores the intersection of science and culture at large.

No one—not the public intellectuals in the culture wars between defenders and detractors of science nor the believers of pseudoscience themselves—is spared Pigliucci’s incisive analysis. In the end, Nonsense on Stilts is a timely reminder of the need to maintain a line between expertise and assumption. Broad in scope and implication, it is also ultimately a captivating guide for the intelligent citizen who wishes to make up her own mind while navigating the perilous debates that will affect the future of our planet.

Author Biography

Massimo Pigliucci is professor of philosophy at the City University of New York. He has written many books, including, most recently, Making Sense of Evolution, with Jonathan Kaplan, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

Introduction Science versus Pseudoscience and the "Demarcation Problem"p. 1
Hard Science, Soft Sciencep. 6
Almost Sciencep. 24
Pseudosciencep. 56
Blame the Media?p. 84
Debates on Science: The Rise of Think Tanks and the Decline of Public Intellectualsp. 104
Science and Politics: The Case of Global Warmingp. 134
Science in the Courtroom: The Case against Intelligent Designp. 160
From Superstition to Natural Philosophyp. 187
From Natural Philosophy to Modern Sciencep. 208
The Science Wars I: Do We Trust Science Too Much?p. 233
The Science Wars II: Do We Trust Science Too Little?p. 253
Who's Your Expert?p. 279
Conclusion So, What Is Science after All?p. 302
Notesp. 307
Indexp. 329
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Wonderful defense of science August 8, 2011
This is an excellent textbook for anyone interested in the philosophy of science. It discusses, not just how to distinguish science from pseudoscience, but points out just how difficult it is to say exactly what IS science. Veterans of the skeptics movement will be well familiar with most of this material, but it's an entertaining and informative textbook nonetheless.
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Nonsense on Stilts: 4 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.

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