Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Astronomical Pseudo-Science: A Skeptic's Resource List

Have you ever wondered what science has to say about astrology? What the real scoop is on crop circles? What about that "face on Mars" that was such a big thing a few years ago? Or maybe you wanted to know if the astronomical connections claimed for such archaeological sites as the pyramids and Sphinx at Giza had any credibility.

To get started in any research endeavor, it helps to have a good bibliography. If you ever wanted to read up on skeptical opinions of any of the topics above (and more), you'll want to look below the fold.

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific has a wonderful resource list. Indeed, if you're interested in astronomy, you might find their whole site fascinating. But the page I landed on that I didn't hesitate to bookmark was their Skeptic's Resource List, a bibliography that covers many pseudoscientific claims in the astronomical field.

As an example, I'll include a single entry (of many available) for each of the topics above:

Culver, Roger & Ianna, Philip Astrology: True or False. 1988, Prometheus Books. The best skeptical book about astrology, full of useful information.

Nickell, J. "Circular Reasoning" in Skeptical Inquirer, Sep/Oct. 2002, p. 17. A concise review, by a skeptical investigator. (On line at http://www.csicop.org/si/2002-09/crop-circles.html)

Sagan, Carl "The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars," Chapter 3 of his book, The Demon-Haunted World. 1995, Random House.

Krupp, E. "The Sphinx Blinks" in Sky & Telescope, mar. 2001, p. 86. Examines some astronomical connections suggested for the Sphinx and the Pyramids and finds them wanting. (See also, Sky & Telescope, Feb. 1997, p. 64.)

Stenger, V. "Quantum Quackery" in Skeptical Inquirer, Jan/Feb. 1997, p. 37. Quick summary of the arguments against quantum mechanics having "new age" implications for human powers. (On the web at http://www.csicop.org/si/9701/quantum-quackery.html)

Okay, I included one extra, but only because I happened across the Stenger citation and noticed the link. I've read that piece and recommend it to anyone who's getting tired of running into quantum-this and quantum-that used to explain every thing from God to consciousness to weight loss.

Each of the titles in the table of contents for the list has a list of both printed resources as well as websites to visit. Such a list is invaluable for teachers who undoubtedly encounter questions about such popular topics from their students as well as the skeptic looking for sources of information to dispel myths and pseudoscientific positions.

Astronomical Pseudo-Science: A Skeptic's Resource List (Version 3.0; August 2003)

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