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Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud (2000)

af Robert L. Park

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4521141,384 (3.89)9
Occasionally in the world of science, unexpected results that appear to violate accepted laws of nature can herald revolutionary advances in human knowledge. Many of these 'revolutionary' discoveries do, however, turn out to be wrong, and eminent scientists must carry the burden of a tarnished reputation for mistakenly thinking they have made a great discovery. In this entertaining text, Robert Park examines the social, economic, and political forces that elicit or support flawed or fake science and then go on to sustain it in the face of often overwhelming contrary evidence. Readers are made aware of the fine line that exists between foolishness and fraud and are warned against irrational beliefs dressed up as scientific garb.… (mere)
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Science!

Is there anything it can't do?

Voodoo Science offered an in depth look into the pseudoscience the plagues the National conscious. The book examined some of the more popular aspects of pseudoscience (i.e. perpetual motion machines, homeopathy, Roswell, etc.) and the reasons why such claims are inherently false. Throughout the book a nod is given to the scientific method, as well as a sobering account of why such a method is importance.

Scientists are not cast as infallible, but rather as humble and logical - and not beyond corruption. If they are wrong, they step down, pseudoscience occurs when they do not. The logic of the book was what attracted me, and the patience with which it viewed those who step outside of the scientific bounds. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is searching for an explanation of why scientists should be respected, and why their work is as important as it is. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
I feel that I know Robert Park, who was director of the Washington Office of the American Physical Society when this book was published, because of his weekly "What's New" column [see http://www.bobpark.org/bob.html], even though we have never met. "Voodoo Science" distills his thoughts on some of the most important recent examples of pathological science in the news and public life. In these ten chapters, he discusses Congress' perpetual credulity for claims of perpetual motion and "free energy" (not the kind I teach!), the low-frequency EMF scare, the politics of manned space exploration, Roswell and aliens, homeopathy, and Deepak Chopra, among others. While Park sympathizes with some whose lack of technical knowledge and understanding of the methods of science make them susceptible to charlatans, he also has a good theory as to how well-meaning amateurs like Joe Newman get caught up in the process that leads from an experiment in the garage to fraudulent claims of infinite energy. A constant throughout these episodes is the irresponsible behavior of the news media when reporting controversial issues with a scientific or technical component. CBS News was doing it again last night (6/29/00), when they devoted a full "48 Hours" program to psychic detectives, ESP, communication with the dead, and similar nonsense. Hardly a skeptical viewpoint was mentioned (as usual). ( )
  hcubic | Jul 7, 2013 |
A very good book about the junk science and the media's willing role in promoting it. Short synopsis: Cold fusion and perpetual motion bad, peer review good. ( )
  dresdnhope | Oct 14, 2009 |
Good book. Gets pretty detailed in the descriptions of physics and science (which I liked). I think he may have gone slightly over his intended audience's heads with the details though. ( )
  raindiva1 | Apr 30, 2009 |
Dr. Park is a physics professor at Maryland, and the American Physical Society's representative in Washington. He pulled together columns he writes for one of the physical journals for this book. It concerns science that is not right but not fraud, and ranges over various perpetual motion and endless energy schemes, cancer from electromagnetic fields and the lack of evidence for that scare, a very negative view of the space shuttle and space station, and other topics. It was very enjoyable, and much better than the other pseudoscience debunking book that came out this year, The Borderlands of Science, since this writer actually knows the science he writes about. ( )
  neurodrew | Apr 16, 2009 |
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(Preface): 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.
I called Joe Newman at his home in Lucedale, Mississippi.
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Occasionally in the world of science, unexpected results that appear to violate accepted laws of nature can herald revolutionary advances in human knowledge. Many of these 'revolutionary' discoveries do, however, turn out to be wrong, and eminent scientists must carry the burden of a tarnished reputation for mistakenly thinking they have made a great discovery. In this entertaining text, Robert Park examines the social, economic, and political forces that elicit or support flawed or fake science and then go on to sustain it in the face of often overwhelming contrary evidence. Readers are made aware of the fine line that exists between foolishness and fraud and are warned against irrational beliefs dressed up as scientific garb.

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