The Borderlands of Science

Subtitled: Where Orthodoxy
Meets Heresy

Shermer argues that science is the
best lens through which to view the
world, but he recognizes that
it’s often difficult for most of us to
tell where valid science leaves off
and borderland science begins. To help
us, Shermer looks at a range of topics
that put the boundary line in high
relief. For instance, he discusses
the many “theories of everything” that
try to reduce the complexity of the
world to a single principle, and shows
how most fall into the category of
pseudoscience. He examines the work
of Darwin and Freud, explaining why one
is among the great scientists in
history, while the other has become
nothing more than a historical
curiosity. He also shows how Carl
Sagan’s life exemplified the struggle
we all face to find a balance between
being open-minded enough to recognize
radical new ideas but not so open-minded
that our brains fall out.
And finally, he reveals how scientists
themselves can be led astray, as seen
in the infamous Piltdown Hoax.