Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

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University of Chicago Press, May 15, 2010 - Science - 336 pages
4 Reviews

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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User Review  - speljamr - LibraryThing

This book is relevant to everything going on in society today, especially as concerns the public perception and interpretation of scientific news and advances. Today you don't have to look hard to ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - quantum_flapdoodle - LibraryThing

With such a great title, I sort of expected this book to disappoint. It didn't. The author delivers a solid critique of pseudoscience and irrational thinking, explaining in the process how science is ... Read full review


Introduction Science versus Pseudoscience and the Demarcation Problem
Hard Science Soft Science
Almost Science
Blame the Media?
Debates on Science The Rise of Think Tanks and the Decline of Public Intellectuals
Science and Politics The Case of Global Warming
Science in the Courtroom The Case against Intelligent Design
From Natural Philosophy to Modern Science
The Science Wars I Do We Trust Science Too Much?
The Science Wars II Do We Trust Science Too Little?
Whos Your Expert?
So What Is Science after All?

From Superstition to Natural Philosophy

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About the author (2010)

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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