Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

I feel that I know Robert Park, who was director of the Washington Office of the American Physical Society when this book was published, because of his weekly "What's New" column [see http://www.bobpark.org/bob.html], even though we have never met. "Voodoo Science" distills his thoughts on some of the most important recent examples of pathological science in the news and public life. In these ten chapters, he discusses Congress' perpetual credulity for claims of perpetual motion and "free energy" (not the kind I teach!), the low-frequency EMF scare, the politics of manned space exploration, Roswell and aliens, homeopathy, and Deepak Chopra, among others. While Park sympathizes with some whose lack of technical knowledge and understanding of the methods of science make them susceptible to charlatans, he also has a good theory as to how well-meaning amateurs like Joe Newman get caught up in the process that leads from an experiment in the garage to fraudulent claims of infinite energy. A constant throughout these episodes is the irresponsible behavior of the news media when reporting controversial issues with a scientific or technical component. CBS News was doing it again last night (6/29/00), when they devoted a full "48 Hours" program to psychic detectives, ESP, communication with the dead, and similar nonsense. Hardly a skeptical viewpoint was mentioned (as usual).

Pick Attribution: 

Robert L. Park

Publication Date: 
Saturday, January 1, 2000