On the Fringe: Where Science Meets Pseudoscience

On the Fringe

Where Science Meets Pseudoscience
 
Publisher: OUP USA
Date of Publication:
 
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Product details:

ISBN13:9780197555767
ISBN10:0197555764
Binding:Hardback
No. of pages:128 pages
Size:217x147x14 mm
Weight:266 g
Language:English
Illustrations: 10
1816
Category:
Short description:

Many people would be able to agree on a list of things that fall under the umbrella of pseudoscience - astrology, phrenology, UFOlogy, creationism, and eugenics might come to mind. But defining what makes these fields "pseudo" and differentiates them from genuine science is a far more complex issue. On the Fringe explores the philosophical and historical attempts to address this problem of demarcation. Michael D. Gordin guides readers along a bewildering array of marginalized doctrines, focusing on some of the central debates about what science is and is not, and how such controversies have shifted over the centuries. On the Fringe provides a historical tour through various theories, providing readers with the tools to think deeply about scientific controversies both past and present.

Long description:
Everyone has heard of the term "pseudoscience", typically used to describe something that looks like science, but is somehow false, misleading, or unproven. Many would be able to agree on a list of things that fall under its umbrella-- astrology, phrenology, UFOlogy, creationism, and eugenics might come to mind. But defining what makes these fields "pseudo" is a far more complex issue. It has proved impossible to come up with a simple criterion that enables us to differentiate pseudoscience from genuine science. Given the virulence of contemporary disputes over the denial of climate change and anti-vaccination movements--both of which display allegations of "pseudoscience" on all sides-- there is a clear need to better understand issues of scientific demarcation.

On the Fringe explores the philosophical and historical attempts to address this problem of demarcation. This book argues that by understanding doctrines that are often seen as antithetical to science, we can learn a great deal about how science operated in the past and does today. This exploration raises several questions: How does a doctrine become demonized as pseudoscientific? Who has the authority to make these pronouncements? How is the status of science shaped by political or cultural contexts? How does pseudoscience differ from scientific fraud?

Michael D. Gordin both answers these questions and guides readers along a bewildering array of marginalized doctrines, looking at parapsychology (ESP), Lysenkoism, scientific racism, and alchemy, among others, to better understand the struggle to define what science is and is not, and how the controversies have shifted over the centuries. On the Fringe provides a historical tour through many of these fringe fields in order to provide tools to think deeply about scientific controversies both in the past and in our present.

Gordin's book should be mandatory reading for all those interested in the nature of science and pseudoscience. On the Fringe provides an excellent exposition of a wide diversity of pseudoscientifc doctrines, something which certainly can help to devise more useful demarcation criteria.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: The Demarcation Problem
Chapter 2: Vestigial Sciences
Chapter 3: Hyperpoliticized Sciences
Chapter 4: Fighting "Establishment" Science
Chapter 5: Mind over Matter
Chapter 6: Controversy Is Inevitable
Chapter 7: The Russian Questions
Notes
Further Reading