Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science
From uttering a prayer before boarding a plane, to exploring past lives through hypnosis, has superstition become pervasive in contemporary culture? Robert Park, the best-selling author of Voodoo Science, argues that it has. In Superstition, Park asks why people persist in superstitious convictions long after science has shown them to be ill-founded. He takes on supernatural beliefs from religion and the afterlife to New Age spiritualism and faith-based medical claims. He examines recent controversies and concludes that science is the only way we have of understanding the world.
Park sides with the forces of reason in a world of continuing and--he fears--increasing superstition. Chapter by chapter, he explains how people too easily mistake pseudoscience for science. He discusses parapsychology, homeopathy, and acupuncture; he questions the existence of souls, the foundations of intelligent design, and the power of prayer; he asks for evidence of reincarnation and astral projections; and he challenges the idea of heaven. Throughout, he demonstrates how people's blind faith, and their confidence in suspect phenomena and remedies, are manipulated for political ends. Park shows that science prevails when people stop fooling themselves.
Compelling and precise, Superstition takes no hostages in its quest to provoke. In shedding light on some very sensitive--and Park would say scientifically dubious--issues, the book is sure to spark discussion and controversy.
Introduction: Lessons from a tree vii
Chapter One 1
A BIGGER PRIZE
In which we discover scientists of faith
Chapter Two 23
THE SECRET OF LIFE
In which Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection survives
Chapter Three 56
MIRACLE AT COlUMBIA
In which both sides pray for victory
Chapter Four 79
GIVING UP THE GHOST
In which we search for the soul
Chapter Five 93
THE SILENT ARMY
In which we search for an afterlife
THE TSUNAMI GOD 104
In which the innocent suffer
Chapter Seven 116
THE NEW AGE
In which anything goes
"If a tree falls on a scientist in a forest with no one else around does it mean he won't make a sound? Not if that scientist is the indomitable Bob Park, the skeptic's skeptic, the Ralph Nader of nonsense, the man who rose from the (nearly) dead to pen this uncompromising critique of superstition and the beliefs that follow once you abandon science and reason. Read this book. Now."
- Michael Shermer, publisher of the Skeptic and author of Why Darwin Matters
"Bob Park has done it again. His lucid, humorous, style--the envy of those of us who fancy themselves writers--gets through the pervasive nonsense that he finds everywhere, from the 'afterlife' delusion to intelligent design. He rightly and joyously celebrates how science has led us from the Dark Ages to the brink of understanding a myriad of mysteries that we should contemplate with a reverence that was once reserved for priests and witch doctors. No one knows better than Bob--personally--the real miracles of medical science surpass anything offered by religion. As he says in this provocative book: 'Science is the only way of knowing--everything else is just religion.'"
- James Randi, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation
"Superstition is yet more evidence that Bob Park is always worth reading. At times funny, at times acerbic, always thoughtful, Bob Park is not one to 'go with the flow.' There is a lot to think about in this book, as usual."
- Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education
"For Princeton physicist Robert Park, science serves as a rapier for skewering all beliefs not sustained by empirical proof. Predictably, religion heads the list of targets ... [Park] pits experimental rigor not only against the creeds of antiquity but also against the irrationality of New Age gurus who evangelize for alternative medicines or extrasensory perception ... Sure to spark sharp debate."
- Bryce Christensen, Booklist
"You may have the impression that mythology expired with the ancient Greeks and Romans. Far from it, mythology has only evolved into another perhaps more pervasive form. It is an insidious force in the modern scene. Park slays the modern dragons with authority and acerbic wit, whether it is ESP or intercessory prayer. The book is a delight."
- Val Fitch, Princeton University, 1980 Nobel laureate in physics
"Opinionated and well-informed, this is a lucid promotion of rationality in a world of rising superstition. We can disagree with the author but he forces us to think harder."
- Yves Gingras, University of Quebec, Montreal
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