Books : reviews

Martin Gardner.
Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?: debunking pseudoscience.
Norton. 2000

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 26 January 2002

Here are many articles from Gardner's Skeptical Inquirer column "Notes of a Fringe Watcher", about pseudoscience and other way-out whacky beliefs. It covers such bizarre cases as reflexology, egg-balancing, urine therapy, Freud [how did his ideas last so long?], Carlos Castaneda's newage anthropology, the Heaven's Gate mass suicide, numerology, and also Alan Sokal's beautiful hoax. I was left amazed, and saddened, at some of the things people believe, and do.

However, I feel there is something missing from this book. In the introduction, where Gardner laments the population's deplorable ignorance of science, he says that he hopes the book might help an open-minded reader to discard a crazy belief. But I don't see how. He simply lays out the crazy beliefs for our inspection. Yet for those ignorant enough of science to think that these ideas could have any basis in reality, this bald description of those ideas surely will not help them realise otherwise. It clearly cannot be obvious to such people why these ideas are crazy. There needs to be some explanation of why. And that explanation is what is missing.