Astrology... poltergeists and ghosts... firewalking... spontaneous human combustion... psychic surgery... ESP. This is the stuff of tabloid headlines. Sure, many people find them laughable, but consider that these papers are all staying in business because people are buying them-and often believing in their outrageous stories, even labeling it all science.
The fact is that not all "science" is created equally. Indeed, some "science" isn't science at all but is really downright bogus-in other words, pseudoscience. However, separating the wheat from the chaff might not be as easy as you think when you consider how many people are seduced by the headlines that surround them in the supermarket line. UFOs and creationism certainly have their advocates among intelligent and educated people. Sometimes, though, wrongly held beliefs can get you into real trouble.
Consider the proclamation by Marshall Applewhite: "Planet Earth about to be recycled. Your chance to survive-leave with us." In April 1997, 39 people-believing just that-committed suicide in their communal home in Rancho Sante Fe, California. They hoped to shed their earthly "containers" and be whisked away by extraterrestrials to a spaceship and, ultimately, a higher level of existence. Unfortunately, their tragically misguided belief in the pseudoscientific claim of Marshall Applewhite cost them their lives.
Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction takes us on a tour of the most notorious instances of pseudoscience and sets the record straight. To clearly demonstrate what is wrong with this brand of ersatz science, the authors look closely at what's right about real science, and then compare the true scientific approach with that of pseudoscience. Readers learn that science's most basic value is that all ideas about reality are subject to testing by experiment and challenge by critical, rational thought.
Scientifically literate thinkers accept ideas tentatively. They base their acceptance on evidence rather than on authority. People who are not scientifically literate are more likely to accept ideas absolutely. They are more vulnerable to deficient or phony ideas. Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction draws the line between what is good science and what isn't even really science at all.
The basis for the book begins with the examination of the five most widely believed pseudoscientific ideas: UFOs, out-of-body experiences, astrology, creationism, and ESP These ideas are reviewed in detail to see just how well they stand up to scientific scrutiny. Cleverly illustrated with cartoons by the renowned Sidney Harris, Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction is both wonderful fun as well as illuminating science.
Although many science topics can seem mysterious, especially when you really get into the details, in the long run its methods and ideas are remarkably straightforward. Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction takes this methodical approach to dissect the worst in the field. Tremendously witty, disarmingly fun, this is a book for anyone-especially for those folks who check their horoscope everyday.
Named to Choice magazine's 2002 Outstanding Academic Titles list
Named one of the Top 15 Books of 2001 by NonfictionReviews.com
"...succinct and jargon-free style... The strength of this book resides in such sparkling prose. Another notable feature: Sidney Harris has peppered Wynn and Wiggins' limpid text with droll cartoons. ... Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction is a healthy and thoughtful diversionary read..."
-- Journal of the American Medical Association, April 3, 2002
"...readable and likeable..."
-- The Skeptic Magazine, 2001
"The book is largely an introductory text, good for younger readers (with plenty of cartoons) or those new to skepticism."
-- Skeptical Inquirer, July 2001
"Charles Wynn and Arthur Wiggins reserve their fiercest fire for what they term the five biggest ideas of pseudoscience: UFOs, the paranormal, astrology, creationism and ESP. Their rigorous appraisals will provide deadly ammunition next time you get into a row with a believer. Learn the arguments, or better still carry the book with you: then you'll have the added advantage of its cartoons by Sidney Harris, pointed, witty and hilarious."
--New Scientist, June 16, 2001
"It provides a secondary or college reader with unique insight into the nature of science and pseudoscience. ... very user friendly. ... This volume is full of very short vignettes, fables, hoaxes, and science stories... Quantum Leaps is a fascinating book!"
-- NSTA Recommends
"Quantum Leaps is just the sort of book that should be read by anyone interested in psychics, mediums, astrologers, and others who make real-world claims about the effects of invisible powers accessible only to a select few. It gets to the heart of what constitutes science -- not only the content and theory, but also the process and reflection. ... I do not know of a clearer, more accurate, and more accessible explanation of what science is and how it proceeds than that in the first three chapters of this book. ...the book is valuable overall and a good resource for those interested in (or faced with confronting) pseudoscientific ideas in the classroom, in civil life, or in politics."
-- Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 2003
"...an excellent example of popular pseudoscience and how to effective debunk it. ... This book is also a useful guide to understanding the methods of science and the sensible, authenticatable way to understand the world. ...cartoons by famous science cartoonist Sidney Harris embellish the pages. Very useful glossary; good index."
-- CHOICE, February 2001
"Harris' droll cartoons enhance this witty analysis."
--Science News, June 16, 2001
"This book provides a clear and easy to read introduction to the methods of science and the problems with pseudoscience. ... With clear and concise writing, a wide scope of subjects and brilliant illustrations, this book makes an entertaining introduction to science and pseudoscience."
--The Skeptic Annotated Bibliography (CSICOP)
"Those who are already confirmed skeptics will find the book entertaining. ... Overall, the book is a valuable addition to the modern skeptic's library, and would be a great textbook for a class on avoiding scams or just seeing the world in more rational terms."
-- Tampa Bay Skeptics Newsletter, Summer 2002
"Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction is a very approachable book on pseudoscientific subjects. With cartoons from Sidney Harris, large type, small page size, and a simple chapter structure, this might be the book that you'd give a young person or someone interested in getting their feet wet on how science views some of the more exotic ideas like UFOs, astrology, creationism, and ESP. ... It is a very fast read and most suitable for people with little exposure to the subject before."
-- Alberta Skeptics, 2001
"This is the most fun I have had with pseudoscience since I had my aura read by a psychic, walked across hot coals barefoot, and was abducted by aliens! Wynn and Wiggins write in a style befitting the delightful cartoons by Sidney Harris that accompany their insightful descriptions of how and why perfectly reasonable folks end up taking quantum leaps in the wrong direction. I m adding this book to our Baloney Detection Kit as a vital resource for anyone who wants to know the difference between science and pseudoscience."
--Michael Shermer, Editor in Chief of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Borderlands of Science and Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstitions, and Other Confusions of Our Times
"The title says it all. The Wynn & Wiggins team have dredged the Swamp of Errors and have exposed to the sunlight a variety of bugs that do not tolerate such illumination very well. Quantum physics itself almost attains the status of metaphysics with many--lay public and academics alike--who fail to look beyond the facts and choose to embrace the mystery. Here we have, in their book, a clearer look at the misconceptions and outright deceptions that plague us. Lots of sunlight, and a dash of disinfectant!"
--James Randi, a.k.a. The Amazing Randi
"Peppered with the humorous cartoons of Sidney Harris, Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction offers valuable tips for anyone pondering the shaky claims of bogus science."
-- Stacey's Booksellers, Staff Review, November 2001
"...an interesting edition for any skeptic's bookshelf. ...its strengths are some lively writing and crisp encapsulations of a wide range of mainstream paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs, followed by a cogent debunking of them all. Some delicious cartoons by Sidney Harris add to the book's easy and readable style. ...an excellent everyday handbook for the skeptic."
-- The SORTified News, from the Sacramento Organization for Rational Thinking, July 2001
"...I would recommend Quantum Leaps as a useful book to introduce a high school or lower level college undergraduate to the critical analysis of pseudoscience."
-- National Capital Area Skeptics newsletter, 2002
"Distinguishing science from pseudoscience is becoming more important all the time in our technological society. This book is an enjoyable and informative primer on this distinction, with wonderful cartoons by Sidney Harris that complement the text."
--Lawrence M. Krauss, author of Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond, Quintessence: The Mystery of the Missing Mass and The Physics of Star Trek
"Quantum Leaps is one of a far too small cluster of rational books that responds to 'voodoo science' issues such as UFO's, astrology, and other such nonsense. The book is embellished by some hysterically funny Sidney Harris cartoons--a perfect match to the important debunking that authors Wynn and Wiggins carry out with wit and cunning."
--Leon M. Lederman, winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics, author of The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? and co-author of From Quarks to the Cosmos: Tools of Discovery
"Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction is a respectful indictment of pseudoscience. With its conversational style and enjoyable cartoons by Sidney Harris, this book provides responses to claims of UFOs, out-of-body experiences, ESP, astrology and creationism. In a world where belief in pseudoscience can hurt people financially and medically, the general public has much to gain from the authors' contrast between the nature of scientific evidence and the stories of pseudoscience that fill the media."
--Dr. Arthur Eisenkraft, National Science Teachers Association President 2000-2001
"Charles Wynn and Arthur Wiggins have once again teamed up with cartoonist Sidney Harris to produce a delightful book that skewers what could be called the five biggest ideas in pseudoscience. ...they give us more than just a recitation of familiar bunk and hooey, because they explain why each falls down under scientific scrutiny. Harris's drawings are classics, and will have many readers (including this one) thumbing through the book from cartoon to cartoon. ... Perhaps the most valuable section of the book is laid out in the first three chapters, before the debunking even starts. Here, the authors show us, cogently and concisely, exactly how it is that science works, and why pseudoscience is, well, PSEUDO-science. ... This book could easily be the basis for a high school or college course on critical thinking. ... Wynn, Wiggins, and Harris have given us is an excellent primer on Science and Pseudoscience, complete with a set of straightforward techniques for telling the difference between them. For those wanting more, there is an excellent glossary and an 'additional reading' section. ... Perhaps some day a potential 'Heaven's Gater' will pick up this book. Even skeptics can dream, can't we?"
--theness.com (New England Skeptical Society), July 2001
"Quantum Leaps deciphers science... So how is a person to know what is real science and what isn t? Wynn and Wiggins help answer that question with their new book."
--State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL), June 24, 2001
"Taking up arms in science's counter-offensive against popular culture, Wynn and Wiggins set out the respectable scientific view of extra-sensory perception, astrology, out-of-body experiences, creationism, and unidentified flying objects."
-- Book News, 2001
"This is non-technical but very good. Unfortunately most Americans will be off reading pseudoscience trash rather than this."
-- Leptonic's "Books That I've Read in 2001"
"The book has a satisfying number of clever scientific cartoons drawn by Sidney Harris."
-- Rocky Mountain Skeptic, May 2001