Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (1957)—originally published in 1952 as In the Name of Science: An Entertaining Survey of the High Priests and Cultists of Science, Past and Present—was Martin Gardner's second book. A survey of what it described as pseudosciences and cult beliefs, it became a founding document in the nascent scientific skepticism movement. Michael Shermer said of it: "Modern skepticism has developed into a science-based movement, beginning with Martin Gardner's 1952 classic".
|Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science|
Cover of the 1957 revised edition
|Subjects||Science, pseudoscience, skepticism, quackery|
|June 1, 1957, 2nd. ed.|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Followed by||Science: Good, Bad and Bogus (1981)|
Order and Surprise (1983)
Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science starts with a brief survey of the spread of the ideas of "cranks" and "pseudo-scientists", attacking the credulity of the popular press and the irresponsibility of publishing houses in helping to propagate these ideas. Cranks often cite historical cases where ideas were rejected which are now accepted as right. Gardner acknowledges that such cases occurred, and describes some of them, but says that times have changed: "If anything, scientific journals err on the side of permitting questionable theses to be published". Gardner acknowledges that "among older scientists ... one may occasionally meet with irrational prejudice against a new point of view", but adds that "a certain degree of dogma ... is both necessary and desirable" because otherwise "science would be reduced to shambles by having to examine every new-fangled notion that came along."
Gardner says that cranks have two common characteristics. The first "and most important" is that they work in almost total isolation from the scientific community. Gardner defines the community as an efficient network of communication within scientific fields, together with a co-operative process of testing new theories. This process allows for apparently bizarre theories to be published — such as Einstein's theory of relativity, which initially met with considerable opposition; it was never dismissed as the work of a crackpot, and it soon met with almost universal acceptance. But the crank "stands entirely outside the closely integrated channels through which new ideas are introduced and evaluated. He does not send his findings to the recognized journals or, if he does, they are rejected for reasons which in the vast majority of cases are excellent."
The second characteristic of the crank (which also contributes to his or her isolation) is the tendency to paranoia. There are five ways in which this tendency is likely to be manifested.
These psychological traits are in varying degrees demonstrated throughout the remaining chapters of the book, in which Gardner examines particular "fads" he labels pseudo-scientific. His writing became the source book from which many later studies of pseudo-science were taken (e.g. Encyclopedia of Pseudo-science).
As per the subtitle of the book, "The curious theories of modern pseudoscientists and the strange, amusing and alarming cults that surround them" are discussed in the chapters as listed.
The 1957 Dover publication is a revised and expanded version of In the Name of Science, which was published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1952. The subtitle boldly states the book's theme: "The curious theories of modern pseudoscientists and the strange, amusing and alarming cults that surround them. A study in human gullibility". As of 2005, it had been reprinted at least 30 times.
The book was expanded from an article first published in the Antioch Review in 1950, and in the preface to the first edition, Gardner thanks the Review for allowing him to develop the article as the starting point of his book. Not all material in the article is carried over to the book. For example, in the article, Gardner writes:
The reader may wonder why a competent scientist does not publish a detailed refutation of Reich's absurd biological speculations. The answer is that the informed scientist doesn't care, and would, in fact, damage his reputation by taking the time to undertake such a thankless task.
And comments in a footnote:
It is not within the scope of this paper, however, to discuss technical criteria by which hypotheses are given high, low, or negative degrees of confirmation. Our purpose is simply to glance at several examples of a type of scientific activity which fails completely to conform to scientific standards, but at the same time is the result of such intricate mental activity that it wins temporary acceptance by many laymen insufficiently informed to recognize the scientist's incompetence. Although there obviously is no sharp line separating competent from incompetent research, and there are occasions when a scientific "orthodoxy" may delay the acceptance of novel views, the fact remains that the distance between the work of competent scientists and the speculations of a Voliva or Velikovsky is so great that a qualitative difference emerges which justifies the label of "pseudo-science." Since the time of Galileo the history of pseudo-science has been so completely outside the history of science that the two streams touch only in the rarest of instances.
While in the book, Gardner writes:
If someone announces that the moon is made of green cheese, the professional astronomer cannot be expected to climb down from his telescope and write a detailed refutation. “A fairly complete textbook of physics would be only part of the answer to Velikovsky,” writes Prof. Laurence J. Lafleur, in his excellent article on “Cranks and Scientists” (Scientific Monthly, Nov., 1951), “and it is therefore not surprising that the scientist does not find the undertaking worth while.”
And in the wrap-up of the chapter:
Just as an experienced doctor is able to diagnose certain ailments the instant a new patient walks into his office, or a police officer learns to recognize criminal types from subtle behavior clues which escape the untrained eye, so we, perhaps, may learn to recognize the future scientific crank when we first encounter him.
A contemporary review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette particularly welcomed Gardner's critical remarks about Hoxsey Therapy and about Krebiozen, both of which were being advanced as anti-cancer measures at that time. The review concluded that the book "should help to counteract some amusing and some positively harmful cults, the existence of which is all too often promoted by irresponsible journalism."
The work has often been mentioned in subsequent books and articles. Louis Lasagna, in his book The Doctors' Dilemmas, considered it to be a "superb account of scientific cults, fads, and frauds" and wrote that "This talented writer combines solid fact with a pleasing style."
Sociologist of religion Anson D. Shupe took in general a positive attitude, and praises Gardner for his humor. But he says
If there is a single criticism to be made of Gardner ... it is that he accepts too comfortably the conventional wisdom, or accepted social reality, of current twentieth-century science and middle-class American Christianity. Somehow it is evident (to me at least) that he is implicitly making a pact with the reader to evaluate these fringe groups in terms of their own shared presumptions about what is "normal". Thus he is quite confident throwing around labels like "quack", "crank" and "preposterous". In science the use of such value judgments can be quite time-bound; likewise in religions where today's heresy may become tomorrow's orthodoxy. The odds of course are always on the side of the writer criticizing fringe groups because statistically speaking so few of them survive. However, when a group does weather its infancy and go on to prosper, invariably its original detractors look a bit more arbitrary than they did initially, and then the shoe is on the other foot.
In the 1980s a fierce interchange took place between Gardner and Colin Wilson. In The Quest for Wilhelm Reich Wilson wrote of this book
(Gardner) writes about various kinds of cranks with the conscious superiority of the scientist, and in most cases one can share his sense of the victory of reason. But after half a dozen chapters this non-stop superiority begins to irritate; you begin to wonder about the standards that make him so certain he is always right. He asserts that the scientist, unlike the crank, does his best to remain open-minded. So how can he be so sure that no sane person has ever seen a flying saucer, or used a dowsing rod to locate water? And that all the people he disagrees with are unbalanced fanatics? A colleague of the positivist philosopher A. J. Ayer once remarked wryly "I wish I was as certain of anything as he seems to be about everything". Martin Gardner produces the same feeling.
By Wilson's own account, up to that time he and Gardner had been friends, but Gardner took offence. In February 1989 Gardner wrote a letter published in The New York Review of Books describing Wilson as "England’s leading journalist of the occult, and a firm believer in ghosts, poltergeists, levitations, dowsing, PK (psychokinesis), ESP, and every other aspect of the psychic scene". Shortly afterwards, Wilson replied, defending himself and adding "What strikes me as so interesting is that when Mr. Gardner—and his colleagues of CSICOP—begin to denounce the 'Yahoos of the paranormal,' they manage to generate an atmosphere of such intense hysteria ...". Gardner in turn replied quoting his own earlier description of Wilson: "The former boy wonder, tall and handsome in his turtleneck sweater, has now decayed into one of those amiable eccentrics for which the land of Conan Doyle is noted. They prowl comically about the lunatic fringes of science ..."
In a review of a subsequent Gardner work, Paul Stuewe of the Toronto Star called Fads and Fallacies a "hugely enjoyable demolition of pseudo-scientific nonsense". Ed Regis, writing in The New York Times, considered the book to be "the classic put-down of pseudoscience". Fellow skeptic Michael Shermer called the book "the skeptic classic of the past half-century." He noted that the mark of popularity for the book came when John W. Campbell denounced the chapter on dianetics over the radio.
Mark Erickson, author of Science, culture and society: understanding science in the twenty-first century, noted that Gardner's book provided "a flavour of the immense optimism surrounding science in the 1950s" and that his choice of topics were "interesting", but also that his attacks on "osteopathy, chiropractice, and the Bates method for correcting eyesight would raise eyebrows amongst medical practitioners today".
Gardner’s own response to criticism is given in his preface:
A Doctor's Report on Dianetics: Theory and Therapy is a non-fiction book analyzing Dianetics. The book was authored by physician Joseph Augustus Winter, with an introduction by German Gestalt Therapy research psychiatrist Frederick Perls.
The book was first published in hardcover by the Julian Press Julian Messner, in 1951, and published again in 1987, by Crown Publishing Group. The work was the first book published that was professionally critical of L. Ron Hubbard.Alfred Lawson
Alfred William Lawson (March 24, 1869 – November 29, 1954) was a professional baseball player, manager, and league promoter from 1887 through 1916 and went on to play a pioneering role in the U.S. aircraft industry. He published two early aviation trade journals.
He is frequently cited as the inventor of the airliner and was awarded several of the first air mail contracts, which he ultimately could not fulfill. He founded the Lawson Aircraft Company in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to build military training aircraft and later the Lawson Airplane Company in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to build airliners.
The crash of his ambitious Lawson L-4 "Midnight Liner" during its trial flight takeoff on May 8, 1921, ended his best chance for commercial aviation success.
In 1904 he wrote a novel, Born Again, in which he developed the philosophy which later became Lawsonomy.Arabella Kenealy
Arabella Kenealy (11 April 1859 – 18 November 1938) was a British writer, physician and eugenicist. She thought that every part of the cosmos, each hemisphere and each half of the human body had a more female side. She was concerned that women taking exercise might reduce their ability to be the "mother of men".Bridey Murphy
Bridey Murphy is a purported 19th-century Irishwoman whom U.S. housewife Virginia Tighe (April 27, 1923 – July 12, 1995) claimed to be in a past life. The case was investigated by researchers and concluded to be the result of cryptomnesia.Chromotherapy
Chromotherapy, sometimes called color therapy, colorology or cromatherapy, is an alternative medicine method, which is considered pseudoscience. Chromotherapists claim to be able to use light in the form of color to balance "energy" lacking from a person's body, whether it be on physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental levels.
Color therapy is distinct from other types of light therapy, such as neonatal jaundice treatment and blood irradiation therapy which is a scientifically accepted medical treatment for a number of conditions, and from photobiology, the scientific study of the effects of light on living organisms. The potential risk of retinal damage linked to chromotherapy has been discussed by French skeptic and lighting physicist Sébastien Point. Although Point considers that LED lamps at domestic radiance are safe in normal use for the general population,
he also pointed out the risk of overexposure to light from LEDs for practices like chromotherapy, when duration and time exposure are not under control.Daniel Webster Hering
Daniel Webster Hering, Ph.D. (23 March 1850 – 24 March 1938) was an American physicist and university dean. He was born near Smithburg in Washington County, Maryland, and graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School (Yale) with a Ph.B. in 1872. He occupied positions at Johns Hopkins, Western Maryland College, Western University of Pennsylvania (now University of Pittsburgh), and NYU, where he was dean after 1902. He was the author of Essentials of Physics for College Students (1912). Hering is credited with taking the first human x-ray in the United States on February 5, 1896 at Bellevue Hospital.Hering also was one of the original citations for Martin Gardner in his work Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science in which it is argued he founded the modern scientific skepticism movement. Hering's work Foibles and Fallacies of Science is considered one of the key original texts on matters concerning pseudoscience.Doktor Koster's Antigaspills
Doktor Koster's Antigaspills were an early 20th century alternative medication intended to treat stomach upset and excessive flatulence. They are best known for being administered to Adolf Hitler by his physician, Theodor Morell, to treat Hitler's stomach ailments. Morrell, regarded as a quack by Hitler's associates, administered a wide variety of unorthodox concoctions and medications to Hitler beginning in 1936.The pills active ingredients consisted primarily of atropine (an extract of Atropa belladonna) and strychnine.Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries
Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology (1990) is a book by Kenneth L. Feder on the topic of pseudoarcheology. Feder is a professor of archaeology at Central Connecticut State University.
Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries takes a skeptical look at outrageous claims in the field of archaeology. It is in the tradition of Martin Gardner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science and Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It is required reading in some archaeology courses. Bettina Arnold, a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, writes that this book "has influenced thousands of undergraduates in introductory courses across the country (and presumably overseas as well), a significant contribution to the everlasting struggle to maintain some control over how professional archaeology is perceived by the general public."International Fortean Organization
The International Fortean Organization (INFO) is a network of professional Fortean researchers and writers. John Keel, author and parapsychologist, in both his writings and at his appearances at INFO's FortFest, says "the International Fortean Organization (INFO) carries on Charles Fort's name as successor to the Fortean Society." Keel, Colin Wilson and John Michell were long-time advisors to the organization.
The International Fortean Organization (INFO) published the INFO Journal: Science and the Unknown, keeps a library of Forteana and offered a research service. Science Digest, in 1978, mentions their "attempts to handle inquiries from a world-wide membership". The Skeptic's Dictionary says "The International Fortean Organization publishes INFO Journal several times a year. It features stories on such topics as anomalous astronomical phenomena, anomalies in the physical sciences, scientific hoaxes and cryptozoology." The quarterly INFO Journal grew from a 54-page publication to a 69-page publication and according to Factsheet Five, a publication dedicated to the review of periodicals, by 1993 was the longest-running Fortean publication.
John Michell and Bob Rickard in their book Unexplained Phenomena said of the International Fortean Organization "INFO was founded in 1965 as the natural successor to the original Fortean Society." Colin Wilson said he wished to assure The American Spectator that Charles Fort is far from forgotten and credited the publishing efforts of the International Fortean Organization's INFO Journal.
Una McGovern in Chamber's Dictionary of the Unexplained said, "Seven years lapsed between the demise of the Fortean Society and the formation of the International Fortean Organization (INFO)...which played a vital role in encouraging a new generation of young forteans." Although the Fortean Society was never officially dissolved their aims were continued by the International Fortean Organization according to Lewis Spence in the "Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology" and encouraged by Damon Knight who credited the organization in his introduction to the Complete Works of Charles Fort published by Dover. Martin Gardner, in a chapter devoted to Fort, which according to the Sceptic Report neither scorns or damns, in Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, notes that Fort doubted everything, even his own speculations. Gardner makes the point that Forteanism serves to remind science that no theory is above doubt, and that knowledge is provisional, it serves a 'sound and healthy' purpose.Juice fasting
Juice fasting, also known as juice cleansing, is a fad diet in which a person consumes only fruit and vegetable juices while abstaining from solid food consumption. It is used for detoxification, an alternative medicine treatment, and is often part of detox diets. The diet can typically last for two to seven days and involve a number of fruits and vegetables and even spices that are not among the juices typically sold or consumed in the average Western diet.
This diet is sometimes promoted with implausible and unsubstantiated claims about its health benefits.Odic force
The Odic force (also called Od [õd], Odyle, Önd, Odes, Odylic, Odyllic, or Odems) is the name given in the mid-19th century to a hypothetical vital energy or life force by Baron Carl von Reichenbach. Von Reichenbach coined the name from that of the Norse god Odin in 1845. The study of Odic force is called odology.Omphalos (book)
Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot is a book by Philip Gosse, written in 1857 (two years before Darwin's On the Origin of Species), in which he argues that the fossil record is not evidence of evolution, but rather that it is an act of creation inevitably made so that the world would appear to be older than it is. The reasoning parallels the reasoning that Gosse chose to explain why Adam (who would have had no mother) had a navel: Though Adam would have had no need of a navel, God gave him one anyway to give him the appearance of having a human ancestry. Thus, the name of the book, Omphalos, which means 'navel' in Greek.
Darwin is mentioned several times within the book, but always with considerable respect. Gosse had attended meetings at the Royal Society where evolutionary theory was tested by Darwin before the publication of Origin—and had even made similar observations himself about variation of species in his own studies into marine biology—and considered Darwin's reasoning scientifically sound.Pseudophysics
Pseudophysics is a pseudoscientific practice using the language of physics or discussing issues related to or pertinent to physics to promote ideas which are either incoherent or contradictory to known physics (experimental phenomenology). According to physicists, skeptics, and science writers, pseudophysics tends to be promoted by so-called "cranks", whose ideas lack peer review, lack falsifiable predictions, and/or blatantly contradict scientific facts and experimental results. Mathematical physicist John C. Baez famously invented a crackpot index to give an idea of what sort of claims and rhetoric were commonplace among pseudophysics proposals he had come across.Psionics
Psionics is the study of paranormal phenomena in relation to the application of electronics. The term comes from psi (“psyche”) and the -onics from electronics (machine). It is closely related to the field of radionics. There is no scientific evidence that psionic abilities exist.Radionics
Radionics (also called electromagnetic therapy (EMT)) is a form of alternative medicine that claims disease can be diagnosed and treated by applying electromagnetic radiation (EMR), such as radio waves, to the body from an electrically powered device. It is similar to magnet therapy which also applies EMR to the body, but using a magnet that generates a static electromagnetic field.The concept behind radionics originated in the early 1900s with Albert Abrams (1864–1924), who became a millionaire by leasing radionic machines which he designed himself. Radionics contradicts the principles of physics and biology and, as such, is widely considered pseudoscientific. The United States Food and Drug Administration does not recognize any legitimate medical uses for radionic devices.Several systematic reviews have shown EMT is not a useful therapy and falls into the category of pseudoscience.Ruth B. Drown
Ruth Beymer Drown (October 21, 1891 – March 13, 1965) was an American chiropractic and proponent of radionics.Special pleading
Special pleading is a form of fallacious argument that involves an attempt to cite something as an exception to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exception.The lack of criticism may be a simple oversight (e.g., the reasons are thought to be obvious) or an application of a double standard.