Skepticism about science and medicine

In search of disinterested science

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Something old, something new

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2013/01/04

Several of my books had gone out of print over the years, including my personal favorites: The Enigma of Loch Ness and To Rise Above Principle: The Memoirs of an Unreconstructed Dean. Now they have been re-issued by Wipf & Stock, with additional material in the Dean’s Memoirs.

The Enigma of Loch Ness is not an argument for or against the reality of Nessies. As the sub-title, Making Sense of a Mystery, suggests, the book addresses such questions as
“Why has science not taken an interest in this claim?”
“What’s different about looking for Nessies and doing science, say, searching for new species?”
In discussing what differentiates science from not-science, I introduce the concept that scientific activity has 3 aspects: facts, methods, and theories. Science progresses normally by not rocking the boat in any of those aspects. Occasional scientific revolutions see dramatic change in one of those aspects. When two are in question, the claim is likely to be ignored by the mainstream for quite a long time (Mendelian genetics, continental drift). Claims that are unorthodox in all 3 aspects tend to be shunned as pseudo-science.

To Rise Above Principle was published under a pen-name because I did not want my semi-imaginative scenarios and semi-invented characters to be identified with my institution or its people. A year later, when that danger no longer seemed pressing, I had the opportunity to reveal my identity at an annual meeting of the Council of Colleges of Arts & Sciences, and this new edition of the book contains the text of what I said on that occasion. Another appendix has my introduction to a panel concerned with what a dean’s career involves, and a third appendix reproduces my change of mind on the matter of homosexuality, earlier published in a book review and posted on my website.

Both books received high critical praise when they were published. All but one review of the Nessie book noted that it was not an argument for or against and praised my evenhandedness despite my confessed personal view. The demurring review misled by implying that the book was an attempt to argue for the reality of Nessies; it had been written by someone who had earlier asked without success to be invited to give a seminar at my university — an illustration of the pitfalls of “peer” review [Peer review and consensus (Scientific literacy, lesson 2)].

🙂     I recommend both books wholeheartedly and unashamedly     🙂



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