Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

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Oxford University Press, 2002 - Science - 230 pages
73 Reviews
Science fascinates us by its power to surprise. Occasionally, unexpected results that appear to violate accepted laws of nature can herald revolutionary advances in human knowledge. Many 'revolutionary' discoveries, turn out to be wrong, however, and even eminent scientists have had their careers tarnished, mistakenly thinking that they have made a great discovery. This is pathological science, in which scientists are subject to self-delusion. And if scientists can sometimes fool themselves, how much easier it is to craft arguments deliberately intended to befuddle jurists with little or no scientific background. This is junk science, typically consisting of theories of what could be so, with little supporting evidence to prove that it is so. Sometimes there is no evidence at all. Ancient beliefs in demons and magic still sweep across the modern landscape, but they are now dressed in the language and symbols of science. This is pseudoscience, which its practitioners may believe to be science, just as witches and faith healers may believe they can call forth supernatural powers. What may begin as an honest error, has a way of evolving from self-delusion to fraud. As Robert Park points out, the line between foolishness and fraud is thin, and because it is not always easy to tell when that line is crossed, he uses the term voodoo science to cover them all: pathological science, junk science, pseudo-science, and fraudulent science. His book is intended to help the reader recognize voodoo science and to understand the forces that conspire to keep it alive. Scientists, Park observes, insist that the cure for voodoo science is to raise the level of scientific literacy. But what is it that a scientifically literate society should know? It is not specific knowledge of science that the public needs, Park argues, so much as a scientific world view - an understanding that we live in an orderly universe governed by natural laws that cannot be circumvented by magicor miracles.

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Review: Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud (Voodoo Science #1)

User Review  - Goodreads

Originally published in 2000, the recent rise in measles makrs it a timely read (although Andrew Wakefield and vaccine scares are not covered). Sadly the people who would benefit most from this book ... Read full review

Review: Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud (Voodoo Science #1)

User Review  - Kylie - Goodreads

A very compelling book. Helps you learn to think critically about everything you encounter, especially when it comes to scientific findings. Read full review

Selected pages


Its Not News Its Entertainment In which the media covers Voodoo Science
The Belief Gene In which science offers a strategy for sorting out the truth
Placebos Have Side Effects In which people turn to natural medicine
The Virtual Astronaut In which people dream of artificial worlds
There Ought to Be a Law In which Congress seeks to repeal the laws of thermodynamics
Perpetuum Mobile In which people dream of infinite free energy
Currents of Fear In which power lines are suspected of causing cancer
Judgment Day In which the courts confront Junk Science
Only Mushrooms Grow in the Dark In which Voodoo Science is protected by official secrecy
How Strange Is the Universe? In which ancient superstitions reappear as pseudoscience

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About the author (2002)

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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