Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction

Charles M. Wynn, Author, Arthur W. Wiggins, Joint Author, Sidney Harris, Illustrator National Academy Press $18.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-309-07309-7
In this lightweight little book, Wynn, a professor of chemistry, and Wiggins, a professor of physics, follow up their Five Biggest Ideas in Science with what might be called The Five Biggest Ideas in Pseudoscience: UFOs and aliens, out-of-body experiences, astrology, creationism, and ESP. Into this mix they throw every suspect (usually money-making) pseudoscience they can think of. Their inclusion of graphology might be questioned, since it has long held a higher reputation in Europe than in the U.S., and the matter of Holocaust deniers is better dealt with elsewhere. The chapter on creationism is unlikely to change the opinions of many believers, and an ill-considered section on life after death may cause some readers to set the book aside. Angels fear to tread into discussions of the immortality of the soul, and these authors should have too. Wynn and Wiggins apparently were aiming for a serious discussion leavened with humor, but their approach seems incoherent. Sidney Harris, well known for his work in the New Yorker, has contributed cartoons, but they are rather hit-and-miss and just add to the uneven tone of the book. The authors make some interesting points (Noah's ark, if built to the dimensions given in the Bible, wouldn't have been seaworthy), but it's doubtful that readers who believe in astrology, ESP or UFOs will pick this book up to begin with, let alone be convinced by the authors' arguments. (June 5) Forecast: It won't be long before this title takes a quantum leap into the remainder bins.
Reviewed on: 05/01/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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