Sunday, March 26, 2006

Martin Gardner book

I just finished reading "Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? Debunking Pseudoscience" by Martin Gardner. It is a collection of some essays from Skeptical Inquiry magazine, and was published in 1999; my paperback edition was updated with comments and addendums in 2002.

I can understand why the general public (the great unwashed masses) might not understand the disputes between physicists over superstrings or wave theory - they (and I) do not have the math to be able to converse intelligently about such things. College calculus doesn't get me there. But that is a huge (may I say "quantum") step between misunderstanding relativity, and believing in homeopathy, psi, UFOs, and that beings from outerspace came 76,000 years ago and left their wisdom to a hack science fiction writer. Most people would scoff at the "Heaven's Gate" cult that committed mass suicide in order to hitch a ride on the spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp comet a decade ago, but believe that big-eyed, gray-skinned aliens routinely go to remote Nebraska wheatfields and abduct semi-literate bubbas for the purpose of exploring rectums. Everyone and their pet monkey has a video camera, a digital camera, and a cell phone with a camera, and yet we can't seem to capture pics of these happenings.

It is also telling that there were NO accounts of alien abductions prior to the polularization of science fiction, and really not until the 60s and 70s when more movies started appearing, did the stories become even more prevalent. Isaac Asimov was asked by Stephen Spielberg to be a technical advisor on his movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" Asimov refused, because he did not want to be a part of anything that encouraged belief in, or even suggested the veracity of, visitations by UFOs. (My reference - Skeptic magazine, Issue No. 1) Good for him.

I have a friend that has been encouraging me to join Mensa, to meet more people that I might find have common interests. The one thing that keeps me from pursuing this (other than the time required....) is that I read that a higher percentage of Mensa members believe in the paranormal than do the general population! I need to research that...

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