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The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense | [Michael Shermer]

The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense

Many people have difficulty figuring out the difference between science, borderline science, and just plain nonsense. When is a theory a fact, and when is it just conjecture? Michael Shermer, a leading science author and skeptic, divides knowledge into three classes: science, based on factual evidence; borderline science, based on scientific conjecture; and nonsense, where anything goes (e.g., Bigfoot).
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Publisher's Summary

Many people have difficulty figuring out the difference between science, borderline science, and just plain nonsense. When is a theory a fact, and when is it just conjecture? Michael Shermer, a leading science author and skeptic, divides knowledge into three classes: science, based on factual evidence; borderline science, based on scientific conjecture; and nonsense, where anything goes (e.g., Bigfoot). He is especially zealous about separating science from borderline science; borderline science includes many modern grand explanatory hypotheses, such as superstring theory. Nonetheless, most attempts to create a Theory of Everything result in nonsense. Shermer explores the work of Darwin, Freud, and Carl Sagan, as well as the shameful episode of the Piltdown Man.

©2001 Michael Shermer; (P)2001 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"His treatment of Carl Sagan, fearless navigator of scientific borderlands, is stellar, as is his chapter on racial differences....The book provides grist for the mill of thought and debate." (Publishers Weekly)
"Shermer writes accessibly about common scientific misperceptions." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (145 )
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4.3 (30 )
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  •  
    Ethan M. Cambridge, MA 06-18-06
    Ethan M. Cambridge, MA 06-18-06 Member Since 2000

    On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through

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    "Unabridged Indeed"

    This audiobook is a mess. I am a fan of Shermer's work, in general, though he is not always a particularly great writer, he is usually interesting. In retrospect, I guess his books work because you can read the good parts and skip his rambling transitions and rather incoherent connections between topics. Not so in the audiobook, where you have to listen to sentence after tedious sentence as he uses repeated examples to attempt to differentiate good borderland science from nonsense, without having a strong central thesis. There are better listens, read this if you are interested, but don't bother slogging through the audio.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard morristown, NJ, USA 07-19-05
    Richard morristown, NJ, USA 07-19-05
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    "reasonable"

    its hard to get a honest review of a book about reason in a world where d chopra's book is listed in the (audible.com b and nobles and amazons) nonfiction section.... shermer is a clear thinker and an important writer. an ejoyabe book for every level. cleverly and repectfully helps all of us to understand the crutial differences between hard facts and soft feelings.

    23 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas W. Smith 12-06-06 Member Since 2004
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    "Tedious"

    Intersting but gets very tedious particularly as relates to Darwin. More of a description of how ideas evolve in the scientific world than a revealation of false ideas and semi-science. Couldn't wait for it to be over.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 03-31-13
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 03-31-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Misleading description"

    I was expecting an objective tour of current controversial experiments. Something about Intelligent Design, Cold Fusion and/or dark matter. Instead we get a lengthy discussion of Alfred Russel Wallace's (co-discoverer of Natural Selection with Darwin) life and personality. The author did his PhD thesis on Wallace and apparently wanted to get some extra mileage out of it.

    Rather than an exploration of the actual borderlands of science, we get an attempt to describe an archetypal inhabitant of the borderlands. What sort of education, relationships, birth order etc create the "heretic personality" that will wind up in research projects that run contrary to mainstream thinking?

    I don't think he is wrong in his conclusions, but I was very disappointed to find a dry psychology book disguised as a popular science text.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bilgin Esme IstanbulTurkey 05-13-08
    Bilgin Esme IstanbulTurkey 05-13-08
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    "Like a mosaic"

    The title may be deceiving. The book is like a mosaic, never gets focused on some specific area. It was a great joy to learn lots of valuable details on "History of Science" from my favorite author M.Shermer. But I think, I expected something more.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Kingston, WA, United States 10-05-05
    John Kingston, WA, United States 10-05-05 Member Since 2001
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    "A rambling man."

    This book has some good insight and history mixed in with the author's rambling on and of topic. I would only choose it if you cannot find anything captivating or you need to argue a point with a psuedo-scientist.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Canada 02-22-10
    William Canada 02-22-10 Member Since 2009

    Life long learner of all sorts of things.

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    "Oh my..."

    I am somewhat disappointed to be honest. Usually, the author is 1,2,3 kind of person. With this, do not expect a sign post type book. It is somewhat hard to track, and I can not say I am happy with it. Best to spend your credits elsewhere I think

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bull Blacksburg, VA, USA 09-21-12
    Bull Blacksburg, VA, USA 09-21-12 Member Since 2007

    Doctor Bull

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    "Who makes an audiobook of a book with figures?"

    I began by searching for all of Grover Gardner's books, then picked the best of those that I had not heard. He's in my top 3! He did not disappoint in this work. I wonder if Audible could cross-reference all three of Grover's noms de lire? It would be nice if a search for Grover Gardner, narrator also listed Tom Parker's and Alexander Adam's works.

    This book is actually a collection of essays called chapters. The chapters/essays pretty much follow the same theme, but only loosely in some cases. The big surprise came when Grover made reference to a figure numbered in the thirties! There had been no figures 1-29, so I sussed that I was listening to a collection of smaller works. Grover didn't attempt to describe the figures, but I think I figured it out anyway.

    By the way, before I started listening I wondered why Michael Shermer's name was so familiar to me. RAAM!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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