Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

Paperback | May 15, 2010

byMassimo Pigliucci

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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.

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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 ...

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.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:May 15, 2010Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226667863

ISBN - 13:9780226667867

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Table of Contents

Introduction Science versus Pseudoscience and the “Demarcation Problem” 

Chapter 1 Hard Science, Soft Science

Chapter 2 Almost Science

Chapter 3 Pseudoscience

Chapter 4 Blame the Media?

Chapter 5 Debates on Science: The Rise of Think Tanks and the Decline of Public Intellectuals

Chapter 6 Science and Politics: The Case of Global Warming

Chapter 7 Science in the Courtroom: The Case against Intelligent Design

Chapter 8 From Superstition to Natural Philosophy

Chapter 9 From Natural Philosophy to Modern Science

Chapter 10 The Science Wars I: Do We Trust Science Too Much?

Chapter 11 The Science Wars II: Do We Trust Science Too Little?

Chapter 12 Who’s Your Expert?

Conclusion So, What Is Science after All?

Notes

Index