[These articles were written for the now-defunct Netzine BAUDEVILLE between December 1995 and August 1996. They are followed by an afterword and update from January 2006.]

The legendary Hippies of the late 1960s found the university environment so congenial that many of them stayed, getting faculty positions in such departments as English, Sociology, Political “Science” and History. Then the spectre of tenure reared its head, and beginning in the early 1970s a number of books and articles began to appear taking science to task for various sins, failings and defects— a hatred of science being a key manifestation of the true Hippy Spirit. Once tenure was achieved, there was the question of raises and promotions, so that the decades since have seen a steady flow of publications from the now-grey Old Hippies (OHs for short). Since the OHs would never have condescended to take an actual course in actual science, their critiques and polemics of science have the peculiar air of referring to some parallel world having almost no points of intersection with our own.

One popular critique of science runs something like this: “Science is just one of many, equally valid alternate ways to look at reality. Science is basically the religion of dead atheistic European white males, and is no more nor less justified than any other religion or belief system. Scientific knowledge at any given time is merely the summed, averaged opinion of the scientific community. Yet, there are dramatic revolutions in which huge quantities of ‘well established facts’ are tossed aside forever, and replaced by new and totally different paradigms, laws of nature, and concepts. Whatever science may say now about how totally wrong some ‘pseudoscientific’ claim might be, don't be surprised if that claim becomes a foundation of 21st Century physics!” Postmodernism, as this set of concepts is sometimes vaguely called, is something of an offshoot of political correctness, which according to the OHs, demands that we view the primitive “healing” rituals of the naked Bumbalooga tribe of tropical Bareassia as being just as valid and effective as the latest discoveries of modern medical science.

One of the oddest aspects of such critiques is that when I investigate the person making the critique, I do not find him living in a cave naked, with no tools of any kind nor any fire for heating and cooking, eating only plants he can gather by wandering about randomly, eating raw only animals he can catch and kill with his bare hands. Instead he is sitting on a cushioned chair in an air-conditioned office, lit by electricity, at an intricate desk piled with xerox copies, with a phone and shelves of printed books, typing away on a computer keyboard as he stares at a cathode-ray image tube or a liquid-crystal screen.  He wears clothes, often of synthetic fabric. He drives a car and flies to conferences on a passenger jet. He watches movies and television, listens to FM radio and CDs, and may even surf the Internet at times. Most OHs, like most small children (whom they seem to closely resemble intellectually), are content to play with and enjoy all the toys of civilization, while expressing disinterest in and ignorant contempt for the intellectual origins of that civilization— not just revelling in their ignorance, but using it to “beat the system” and gain those raises and promotions.

In the real world, science is the most culture-independent of all human activities, and the most genuinely international of all group human efforts. A glance at the latest issue of Physical Review Letters reveals names such as Peshkin, Zaslavskii, Nath, Qui, Suzuki, Garcia, Prasad and Kim. A Ukranian physics textbook for a certain type of course is essentially identical in every significant respect to the corresponding Mexican, Indian, Canadian or Egyptian physics textbook. Physics experiments come out exactly the same way, and laws of physics are exactly the same, whether one is in Ceylon or in Alaska. Science is tied to no one's culture and answers to no one's authority.

The laws of physics are simply descriptions of how things do in fact behave. They are very general, quantitative mathematical descriptions of what actually does happen. As a result, an established law never suddenly becomes “wrong.” Consider Newton's 1687 theory of gravity. By now, 319 years later, this should be ready for the scrapheap, right? Uh, no. Gravity is the same as it ever was, and Newton's description of it works as well as it ever did. Every robot space probe to the outer planets is sent on its way according to calculations based entirely on Newton's theories, and the space probes arrive just where they should, just when they should.

After all these years, don't we have a better description of gravity? Sure. Einstein came up with one in 1915, when he saw that Newton's description makes tiny but consistent errors in regions of space very close to very massive objects— because there, gravity affects the geometry of space itself. Einstein's new theory of gravitation was as different from Newton's as one can imagine. For example, it made no reference to forces; it described gravity entirely in terms of its effects on space-time geometry. Why don't space probe navigators use Einstein's theory? Because, when applied to almost any situation, it gives the same answer as Newton's theory, and Newton's theory has easier mathematics. This is the point about science that the OHs always seem unable to grasp: It is a description of what we find in nature. Once we have an accurate description, it remains accurate forever. Nature doesn't change. What does change is our knowledge of details. As we learn more, we may need a more general description, which works in situations never dreamed of by those who worked out the original description. But, applied to the same cases as the old description, it gives the same, correct results!

OHs to the contrary, we aren't going to have our knowledge of biology overthrown one day by the discovery that chickens give birth to live young, and that the “opinion'' that chickens lay eggs is totally wrong. The reason is that “chickens lay eggs” is not someone's wild and crazy belief. It is a valid description of what female chickens do to pass the time.

Science is not going to discover suddenly one day that what astrologers or crystal healers or dowsers or New Age gurus or Creationists or believers in the Loch Ness monster have been telling us all along is true. When something beloved of OHs, from homeopathy to pendulum power, from moxibustion to Atlantis, is investigated methodically by scientists, they find nothing but wild claims, ignorant self-deception, and mindless inconsistency. They never find actual physical phenomena. Science progresses only by discarding ideas and guesses that prove to be worthless and irrelevant to reality. This may offend OHs, but that's a pretty small price to pay for progress. Ideas are discarded not because “the social psychology and politics of science” render some ideas offensive. Ideas are rejected because they fail as accurate, objective, general descriptions of nature. Scientists love new ideas. That's what gets them raises and promotions. But there's this little catch. The ideas have to be correct.

Once you get away from university departments of math, science and engineering, being correct doesn't seem to be a big issue. Rather, the issue is being politically correct. The OHs like to pretend they live in a universe where there are no facts, everything is a matter of opinion, and all opinions are equally valid— but, of course, the opinions that are not politically correct do not need to be considered. And, it's true, they do indeed live in just such a universe. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it exists entirely inside their own poorly-stocked minds. The problem is that most university students stay well away from real courses in math, science and technology. And so the only ideas related to science most college students are exposed to are the ideas about science found in that very same archaic, infantile, and imaginary Old Hippie universe.

Science Falls Down the Memory Hole!

When physicist Robert Park showed up at the Smithsonian Museum of American History's new exhibit, “Science in American Life,” in the summer of 1994, he saw the following: “Tours... are conducted by a middle-aged docent wearing a white lab coat and carrying a clipboard. `In the 1920s,' he recites, ‘we thought scientists were gods. Now we know they're the source of our biggest problems.’ That pretty well sums up the exhibit, [which] begins with a recreation of the chemistry lab at Johns Hopkins where saccharin was discovered in 1879, complete with life-size talking manikins of Ira Remson and Constantine Fahlberg. But the two scientists are not discussing coal-tar chemistry, they are in a bitter dispute over credit for the discovery. And so it goes.... It's all there: mushroom clouds, a family bomb shelter from the 60s, DDT and CFCs.... As you leave the exhibit, there is a sign warning visitors to ‘Stop and Think! Is gene therapy safe?’” Not safe, anyway, from academic historians, whose hatred of science has attained pathological dimensions in recent years, for reasons partially explored in my last column. The most incredible thing about the Smithsonian exhibit is that it was paid for by the American Chemical Society, at a cost of $5.3 million. The Society was understandably so unhappy with the result that it has privately warned other scientific societies against similar donations.

A related brouhaha resulted about a year ago [1995] when Congress got a look at the proposed US history standards generated by historians for the National Education Standards and Improvement Council, standards about to be approved as the history education baseline for grades 5 - 12 under the “Goals 2000: Educate America” Act of 1994. Our beloved, ever-vigilant Congressmen were mainly ticked off by the excruciating political correctness of the document. But scientists noticed strange omissions— such as science itself! Robert Park's word-search of the standards turned up only one reference to science, in a list of professions from which women had supposedly been systematically excluded! No scientists were mentioned, by name or otherwise, in a document so detailed it found substantial room for Roseanne Barr and Bart Simpson. When the Senate condemned the standards, by a vote of 99-1 (the 1 wanting even harsher condemnation), minor revisions took place. The latest version, released in the spring of 1996, does allow grudingly that science, whatever that is, had some small positive impact on “America's economic strength” and on the “standard of living,” but the only scientist mentioned is Ben Franklin, and the only inventors mentioned are the Wrights. The National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA, in addition to providing the scienceless U.S. history standards, also provided equally scienceless world history standards. Newton who? Galileo what? Darwin which? Fermi and Feynman, where?

While academic historians are either pretending science doesn't exist, or ranking it as a variety of war crime, academic sociologists are trying to convince us that science is as irrational and inherently non-objective as, say, uh... history or sociology! In a remarkable book called The Golem: what everyone should know about science, sociologists Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch use a tactic identical to that found in the “Bermuda Triangle” books of the 1970s. Want to make the loss of a ship in mid-Atlantic mysterious? Easy, just leave out all the facts and details— the storm, the distress calls, the freighter that arrived just in time to see the ship sink with all hands still aboard. Want to make the process by which science reaches its conclusions about which ideas are valid and which are invalid mysterious? Easy, just leave out the crucial facts and details. As an example, in Chapter 2, Collins and Pinch discuss the way in which scientists came to accept the theory of relativity. Their discussion is handicapped from the start by the fact that they haven't the vaguest concept of what the theory of relativity is— they confuse the 1905 theory of special relativity with the 1915 theory of gravitation— but the important thing is that they leave out almost all of the experimental verification, in an apparent effort to show that scientists accepted the theory first and then manufactured bogus “verification” later. As physicist David Mermin remarks in the April, 1996 issue of Physics Today, Collins and Pinch give “hardly a hint [that they follow] a single tiny strand in an enormous tapestry of fact and analysis.... Without even a glimpse of the rest of the tapestry, I do not see how the lay reader can fail to conclude that relativity is fradulent.” Actually, Collins and Pinch don't seem to think that relativity is a fraud, but as Mermin notes, “the sole reason for believing in relativity that they cite as compelling is the atomic bomb”!

Consider a historical biography of a great general, who won every battle he ever fought, with blindingly brilliant tactics. But this particular biography discusses at tedious length only the general's early morning, pre-coffee fits of hysteria and irrationality, in the sole presence of his orderly, somehow never finding room even to mention in passing that the general spent the rest of each and every day, and on far into each night, thinking out every possible strategy to meet every possible battle eventuality. Then the fact that the general won every battle becomes very mysterious. Maybe he was just lucky. And maybe the atom bomb was found growing on some tree, or under some turnip leaf.

It isn't only historians and sociologists who think that science is irrational and evil. Lawyers, particularly politicians, have always been among the biggest foes of science— indeed, of all academic and educational activities whatsoever. Still, scientists were a bit taken aback when Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, weighed into the fray in a speech delivered at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1994. Havel traced all the malaise and the evils of modern society back to “the dizzying development of... science, with its unconditional faith in objective reality and its complete dependence on general and rationally knowable laws.”

The Old Hippies liked to accuse scientists of being “obsessed with reality,” or needing to be “freed from the tyranny of fact.” Like most great spiritual thinkers, from Pat Robertson to Jack Chick, Havel thinks mankind can recover the “integrity” science has destroyed, only by returning to that Good Old Time Religion— “only a God can save us now”— or to some trendy dismal pseudoscience that rips off and relabels an archaic religious concept, such as the “Anthropic Cosmological Principle” (the universe was made for us, just as we always believed) or the “Gaia Hypothesis” (the earth was made for us, just as we always believed). I haven't met Havel, nor seen a photo that shows his feet, but it sure sounds as if he wears socks with his sandals!

Magic with the Mind?

If we could borrow Mr. Peabody's Way-Back Machine from Moose and Squirrel, Inc., and set it for Italy in 1572, we would find it very interesting to follow Girolamo Scotto around Europe. Scotto (aka Hieronymus Scotto) was a knight whose skills in diplomacy and negotiation made him indispensable to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, among others. What brings us to Scotto here is that in addition to being a negotiator, he was one of the great entertainers of his day, although he never performed for the general public. A hard day of thrashing out the details of some treaty with an Archduke would be followed by a lavish banquet, and there Scotto would himself perform what modern magicians would instantly recognize as a short routine of “close-up restaurant magic,” with cards, coins and common items on the dining tables.

After the dessert, Scotto stood again to perform what magician and magical historian Melbourne Christopher called “the first full mental-magic routine on record.” For the dazzled diners (one of whom, a court physician named Handsch, carefully recorded the feats in his diary, which is how— in the regrettable absence of a real Way-Back machine— we know of them today), the knight achieved incredible feats of apparent mindreading. The court chamberlain chose a book, opened it at random, and secretly selected any syllable in any word on the page. Scotto, standing nowhere near, spoke the syllable. Scotto left the banquet hall while the Archduke himself wrote whatever came into his mind on a piece of paper. When Scotto returned to the hall, he had his own sheet, on which was written precisely what the Archduke had written. Scotto continued with miracle after miracle, until the diners were shaking their heads in wonderment.

Magicians call the use of principles of sleight-of-hand and misdirection to achieve what appear to be supernatural abilities--- mind reading, knowledge of the future, knowledge of hidden objects--- by the name “mentalism.” The best-known modern mentalists, such as Max Maven, Glenn Falkenstein, Derren Brown, Mark Salem and Kreskin, still make use of many of the same basic sneaky tactics used by Girolamo Scotto more than 430 years ago.

Interestingly, although Scotto performed for audiences barely out of the Dark Ages, he was only once accused of sorcery. His accuser was a hysterical woman who had been detected in adultery, and who in testimony claimed that Scotto (despite the handicap of being hundreds of miles away at the time) had cast a spell to cause her to fall into the arms of a handsome knight named Ulrich. The court wisely ignored these charges and Scotto was not even called to testify.

Why do I bring this up? Bear with me a moment. In 1979, psychology professor Barry Singer, then of California State University, approached a student and asked him to develop a short program of mentalism. Since the student was not a magician, the tricks chosen were extremely simple, classic “back of the cereal box” feats. The student performed in six different classes. In three of the classes, the class was told before the performance that the student claimed psychic powers. In the other three classes, the class was told before the performance that the student was going to do some simple magic tricks. The performer himself made no claims, and did the same three tricks in each of the six courses. The classes were asked to copy down the professor's initial introduction (to make sure they had heard and understood it), and then after the performance were asked to write down any reactions.

The results surprised Singer, to say the least. In the classes which had been told the student performer claimed to be psychic, consistently 80% of the students said that indeed he had proved his claims conclusively. Even more disturbing, even in the classes where the student performer had been introduced as an amateur magician, more than half of each class concluded that the performer was a psychic! The students who were most disturbed emotionally by the performances--- sometimes literally terrified— tended to be followers of narrow, fundamentalist religions. As Singer noted, it seems that “over half the student population will ascribe psychic powers to a vaudeville routine, no matter how amateurish it is, and no matter who tells them the truth about it. This strikes me as a remarkable state of affairs.”

Since Singer's initial test, the same basic situation has been recreated many times, always with the same, incredibly depressing result. In 1985, New Zealand psychologist David F. Marks, who had developed his own repertoire of mentalism feats after studying the acts of Kreskin and Uri Geller, did a routine consisting of five simple tricks for his psychology classes. Although he had made no claims other than that his performance would be a “test of observation,” 90% of the students concluded that Marks had demonstrated supernatural ability. These are sobering findings, to say the least.

It's important to realize that audiences have a totally different reaction to skillful magic than they do to mentalism, despite the fact that the basic methods are essentially identical. When David Copperfield flies like a bird, live on stage, audiences say, “that's a great trick, I wonder how he does it?” Yet, when a magician performs a trick that looks like mindreading or precognition, a substantial fraction of the audience clearly believes what was demonstrated is completely real!

I have been teaching a class in pseudoscience at my own university for more than 27 years (as of 2008). Over those years, in each class, three times a week, from late August to early December, and/or  late January to early May, I present a different feat of mentalism. It took me around 10 to 15 years (slow learner!) to establish precisely what I can get away with in the classroom environment, and if I do say so myself, I think the more professional of the effects presented now provide very few real clues as to method. Do the members of my class think I am a psychic superman? I am sure they do  not, because I try to present my feats as “demonstrations” of what sorts of things can be done by perfectly mundane, if well-disguised, methods. At least the students never come up after class and ask me to tell their fortunes.

Note the most depressing fact of all. Modern college students are in general far more credulous, superstitious and intellectually passive than Scotto's upper-class audiences of more than four centuries ago. Are we now closer to a Dark Age than the 1570s were? Carl Sagan, in his mid-1990s book, The Demon-Haunted World, argues that we indeed are. I wish I didn't have to agree. Sagan, for example, didn't live to see the completely daffy “Intelligent Design” movement emerge and try with some success to turn the “clock” of biological science back 200 years!

Where Ignorance is, Follow Your Bliss....

As Baudeville's editor Dan Heath pointed out some months ago, that fraction of adult Americans who can and do read has become hardened to reading stories in the papers about the shortcomings of its education. But nonetheless, the level of general ignorance is staggering, especially when one probes the public comprehension of the world around us. For example, more than half of the adult U.S. population does not know that the earth orbits the sun, requiring one year to do so! But if you move a few decades past Copernicus, it gets far, far worse. More than 90% of the population thinks that gravity ceases to operate a few miles above the earth's surface; that the phases of the moon are due to the earth's shadow; and, that winter is due to the earth being further from the sun, and summer to it being closer.

If you look into the high schools, it actually gets more dismal. And the precise nature of the intellectual strangulation that produces such profound ignorance becomes clearer. About 94% of American 17-year-olds can't solve simple math problems requiring more than one step; about 93% can't infer simple relationships, or draw any meaningful conclusion, from supplied data.

Well, we've heard this over and over and over, right? Why am I bringing it up again? Bear with me a bit. The fraction of U.S. high school students taking physics is at best a few percent. (Many high school career advisors have told me that they advise college-bound students not to take physics, because it would drag down their grades and make it harder to get into college!) Not that the high-school courses are all that great, anyhow. High school physics teachers have very often never had a single college-level course in physics. Like most college students, the future teachers avoided taking physics, because it would drag down their grades and make it harder to... uh, get a job?

I know you're saying, “Coker, come to the point. We know all this.” Well, many don't, as I can testify from my questioning of the general public. So then, ponder the following. Whenever I am introduced as a physicist to a public gathering, or (shudder!) even appear as a guest on a radio talk show, as I did recently [1996], people are quick to tell me how interested they are in physics. Not interested enough to ever have taken a course, of course--- that would have made it harder to... uh, something. Yet people consistently and obviously sincerely want me to know how excited they are by the “ideas and concepts of physics.” Wait a minute, what ideas and concepts? Remember, these people have yet to hear the hot physics news of 1696, much less 1996. They think that there's no gravity on the moon. What ideas and concepts are they talking about, and where could they ever have encountered them?

Well, that's precisely the question I try to ask, and the answer I get is almost always the same. Alas, it is not the “ideas and concepts of physics'' that are exciting these folks. Although they are given to burbling about “Bell's Theorem,” quantum chaos and “the Uncertainty Relations,” they haven't the foggiest notion of what these terms refer to or actually have to do with anything. Rather, their excitement and enthusiasm is actually for some vague, feel-good hippy-dippy pseudoreligious folderol. To be explicit, they have merely read some book which asserts in an incomprehensible but stirring way that some plastic California-style pseudoreligion it promotes can be justified by appeal to, uh, the “New Physics,” whatever that is, or just to quantum physics!  Physics must be neato stuff if it proves we are all Gods with amnesia, right?

Good scams get retreaded fairly regularly. From the 1880s to the 1950s, weird new cults tended to be promoted by claims that they traced somehow to Tibet or Tibetan religion, a fairly safe claim since not 0.00000001% of the population knew even the vaguest thing about any actual Tibetan religion, and furthermore the actual Tibetan religions were so complex that only a handful of scholars would be able to assert confidently that the weird new cult in fact had teachings with no counterpart whatsoever in any aspect of Tibetan thought. Since the early 1970s, Tibet has been replaced by modern physics. Again, it's a fairly safe replacement, since apparently only a few thousand people out of the U.S. population of more than 260 million have other than the most nebulous notion of what physics even is. In any event, these cult paperbacks use “physics” as never more than a pointless metaphor. They are not actually about physics, in any way, shape or form, and their authors have no honest interest whatsoever in physics.

Now, it is quite true that some of the pioneering fake-physics books were written by people who did receive some training as physicists. Throughout this century, beginning with Sir James Jeans and Sir Arthur Eddington, and dwindling (and dimming) down to Fritjof Capra and David Bohm, we can find a handful of physicists who at some point in their careers transfer all their enthusiasm into philosophical or religious questions (about which they, alas, seem to know little) and in their simplistic philosophical or religious musings they naturally tend to use metaphors drawn from physics, much as someone who had previously studied Shakespeare might equally naturally draw many of his metaphors from Shakespeare.

Working physicists view these books, whatever their source, with general and universal dismay. There are indeed books out there that do make an effort to convey to the general reader facets of the description of the universe that modern physics provides, books written by the likes of Nobel-laureate physicists Steven Weinberg and Richard Feynman. But those books that prostitute the name of physics to some tired ideological purpose are immensely more popular. A brief consultation with the electronic card catalog of the local university library revealed that the 1980s works of Fritjof Capra and David Bohm have attained the apex of popularity ordinarily reserved only for books on do-it-yourself witchcraft or how to cast your own horoscope— namely, they have all been stolen from the shelves. By contrast, I found some fairly good books on modern physics, aimed at the general public, had never been checked out.

Physicists detest “mystical physics'' books for good reason. When total misrepresentation is piled atop total ignorance, it's a volatile, a dangerously unstable pile. To quote one more survey, right now only about 72% of U.S. adults think scientific research is worthwhile. The more they are told that physics, the foundation of all science, is “really” just mystical mumbo-jumbo, the closer we edge toward a society which sees no need to distinguish fact from fantasy, and which no longer supports that risky quest for an understanding of nature that began with Galileo and Copernicus. A society in which most people remain less than ignorant of everything learned by scientists in the last 400 years is not a society that is going to continue indefinitely to support science or produce scientists.

2006 Afterword:

In the 10 years since the essays above were written, the general sad state described has in some aspects remained the same, and in other aspects worsened. The state of ignorance of basic concepts in math and science exhibited by US K-12 students has steadily worsened, as the International Math and Science Surveys reveal (see links below). The Old Hippies, who generally prefer to be called Postmodernists these days, have forged some pretty scary and unhealthy connections with mainstream pseudoscience, particularly with Creationism and Intelligent Design. And the continual assault against K-12 science education by Creationists and Intelligent Designers manifests itself in new cities and counties and states seemingly every week. The “mystical physics” movement of the 1970s has been submerged completely in the sea of New Age pseudoscience, so that the “quantum nonsense” of the pioneers can now be found everywhere in pseudoscience, from astrology to health quackery.

In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal published in a typical postmodern academic journal, Social Text, a long article which was carefully constructed so that every factual statement made about physics and physical theories was manifestly incorrect. The journal's referees saw no problems. Political correctness or postmodernism has made huge inroads into colleges of education. The result, since the early 1990s, has been “National Education Standards” which explicitly state that “there is no scientific progress, only changes in scientific opinions.” Students in many colleges of education are taught that there is no such thing as genuine talent in either science or math. Courses in science and math that have actual content are dismissed as “elitist,” since so few students make an A. Science and math are said to be deliberate constructs that favor only white males, and to be expressed in terms that “women and minorities” simply cannot hope to understand. [A good example of the way in which Political Correctness tends to be overtly sexist and racist itself, while condemning everyone else on earth for their alleged sexism and racism!] Another frightening development is the increasing use of postmodernist arguments to defend and protect medical quackery of all kinds, to present such mumbo-jumbo as being “just as valid and effective” as treatments based on scientific research and meaningful testing.

The Postmodernist solution to the fact that science and math are “difficult for and hated by” most students is to “reconceptualize” it. There should be no right or wrong answers, and teachers should “facilitate” the free expression of student opinions, instead of lecturing on course material.  In some states, as of 2006, this approach has actually become official! The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a nonpolitical, non-profit organization that sponsors research into US K-12 educational developments, publishes regular surveys of  the 50 states' official math and science standards. These surveys make literally terrifying reading!

For Further Reading—

  • Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science, by Paul Gross and Norman Levitt (Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, 1994).

  • Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont (St. Martin's Press, NY, 1998).

  • Facing Up, by Steven Weinberg (Harvard U. Press., Boston, 2003).

  • A House Built on Sand— Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science, ed. by Noretta Koertge (Oxford, NY, 1998).

  • Prometheus Bedeviled: Science and the Contradictions of Contemporary Culture, by Norman Levitt (Rutgers, NJ, 1999).

  • Uncommon Sense— the Heretical Nature of Science, by Alan Cromer (Oxford, NY, 1993).

  • Mad, Bad and Dangerous? by Chrisopher Frayling (Reaktion, London, 2005). The media of mass communications are the worst enemies of science... movies, TV, kids' cartoons. Here's a survey by Prof. Frayling.

  • Back

    Links on Postmodernism:

    This website generates completely meaningless postmodern essays at random. They're a bit short and not under the viewer's control, otherwise they would pass as essays students could turn in as completed assignments in courses in various humanities departments at almost any university. To generate a new essay, just hit "return" on your browser.

    Some other links.

    Thoughts on science vs. postmodernism.

    A good review of some of the recent books discussing the horrors of postmodern science education and science criticism.

    A brief essay on Postmodernism versus Science.

    A good review of some mid-90s books on Postmodernism versus Science.

    An overview of the negative impact of positivism and Creationism on such fields as social anthropology. Creepy and scary!

    An article on postmodernism pollution of universities.

    A view of the unholy alliance of postmodernism and creationism.

    A parodistic look at the impact of postmodernism on science education.

    Are the science wars over?

    A review of the basic book on the topic, Higher Superstition.

    Afterthoughts on the ideas of the pioneering antiscience philosopher, Paul Feyerabend.

    Richard Dawkins on the Sokal Hoax and postmodern attacks on science.

    Both Postmodernism and Pseudoscience are aspects of the same irrational hatred of science and genuine, fact-based scholarship, as noted here.

    Which political party in the US is the most resolutely anti-scientific? It's not so easy to tell! Or is it?

    A good overview of postmodern craziness with regard to science and education.

    Overseas, for example in India, postmodernist arguments are used to encourage “nationalist, traditionalist science,” which replaces modern science with literalist, Vedic fundamentalism. The Maharashi would approve!!

    NSF Surveys of Public Science Literacy and Attitudes:

    for updates, see:
    How did we get into this fix? Read Richard Feynman on public school science textbooks.

    Trends in International Math and Science Study:

    The U.S. educational system has been in a perpetual state of crisis since 1957, and each year sees further deterioration. U.S. schools have placed dead last or tied for dead last among many dozens of randomly selected countries, in a number of separate studies, up to 2003. [These studies were originally called the First, Second and Third International Math and Science Surveys.] Also included is an independent international study covering the same questions.

    Summary of current results 2003 Study, results announced in 2005.
    An independent international study from 2003
    Avoiding Facing Death!
    Cities on the Moon and Mars!
    Creationism and Intelligent Design!
    Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience!
    ESP Experiments!
    Flying Saucers (1947–1985)
    Fortean Phenomena
    Gods from Outer Space!
    Higher Dimensions!
    Kirlian Photography and the Aura!
    Martian Canals!
    Medical Quackery!
    Monsters! and Ape Suits!
    Mystery Spots?
    Mystical and Bogus Physics!
    The New Age!
    Postmodernism vs. Science!
    Prophecy and Prophets!
    Psychic Detectives!
    Pyramid and Crystal Powers!
    Science Fiction and Pseudoscience!
    Space Brothers!
    UFOs 1985-2005!