Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Voodoo Science Book Report

The book I chose to read for this class is Voodoo Science by Robert Park. This book is basically a compilation of examples of pseudoscience and how we the world reacts to these claims. Park repeats a couple of his examples in most of the chapters in the book. He’ll explain it in one chapter and then refer to it again in the next, which I think is a really great idea because it helps the reader connect his chapters to each other. One example that he uses often is about Joe Newman, a Mississippi man who claims to have discovered and Energy Machine that provided unlimited energy. This man truly believed that he had discovered something that scientist still can’t figure out, but it isn’t true because it defies laws of science. We re-visit this man and his energy machine several times throughout the book as his adventure continues right through a visit to Congress. Park uses these examples to demonstrate how easy it is for random citizens to convince a huge population of their crazy beliefs despite the years of research scientists have put into these things. People continuously come up with these theories some because they truly believe it but others because they are in it as a fraud for the money.

There were a few chapters that really interested me like the 9 year old girl, Emily Rosa, who published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association because she found astonishing results in her science project, and the chapter on the space exploration where we learned how improbable living on Mars will be. But I decided my favorite part of the book is about the power line scandal. Although this happened right before I was born and into my childhood years, I still heard rumors about it. As a member of the general public with no scientific training at all besides high school biology and chemistry classes, I figured the claim was believable, that people can develop health problems like leukemia in children because of power lines being too close to the home. I didn’t bother to do my research before coming to my opinion about it, which turns out was a mistake. After about 7 years of testing it had been found that there is no correlation to this at all, and that the only reason there was a case about it was because they did biased testing to make correlations. Turns out, they only reported the people who did have health problems and happened to live near power lines. They failed to include people who lived near them and had no problems. I thought it was crazy that the claim made it so far and was even published in journals that are also not to be trusted. This claim effected millions of people and was brought to court for thousands of trials to be reimbursed for something that didn’t even happen. This really opened my mind to the world of science and taught me to think twice before believing something I’m told.

I didn’t think I would enjoy this book as much as I did. I figured since it was about science it’d be put to sleep by the long scientific words and explanations of various subjects that I took no interest in. However, it was a lot more understandable then I expected. Park used language that was easy to understand and related things to stories that caught the attention of the general population. I really enjoyed how he tied the chapters together and kept using the same examples to tell his story and get a point across. It’s amazing how easily the public accepts what people tell them without taking science into account. This book helps anyone who reads it determine scientific knowledge to “voodoo science”.

This book relates to the class because it’s all about pseudoscience, or voodoo science. It involves claims that people make without scientific background and testing to convince the public that science is wrong and that they have something that we all need to know. For the past few weeks we have all been posting on things that we grew up believing were true, and then come to a harsh reality that they aren’t. This is pretty much what this book is doing using examples to prove that many things we hear aren’t credible. Even scientists get hung up on the crazy things people swear they came up with because they want to be convinced that it might actually be possible. Once people get fed these crazy claims, we become less likely to believe the real truth when it comes to our attention, which is not a good thing. It might prevent us to lose the reason for scientific testing, and to use products and believe in things that make no sense. Science is a very powerful thing; sometimes that’s good and other times not so much. We really need to learn how to depict the truth from the voodoo science.

No comments:

Post a Comment