Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?: Discourses on Reflexology, Numerology, Urine Therapy, and Other Dubious Subjects

Martin Gardner, Author W. W. Norton & Company $26.95 (333p) ISBN 978-0-393-04963-3
Former Scientific American columnist Gardner (The Annotated Alice, etc.) has also long been a columnist for another journal--Skeptical Inquirer--and some 28 of his far-ranging pieces are loosely tied together in this new collection. Individually, these essays amuse and provoke, but because the subject material is broad, Gardner doesn't delve deeply into any one topic. Rather, he jumps from fringe science to cannibalism, psychology and the histories of various religious sects. Along the way, he challenges his opponents--espousers of bogus science--to explain their beliefs and denounces some books (by Deepak Chopra, for instance) as preposterous while praising others that are skeptical in tone. Reflexology, the practice of treating ailments by rubbing specific parts of the feet, is dismissed as ""profitology."" Some essays address current topics, including the Heaven's Gate cult, while others are old news (finding Freud's dream theory flawed). Still, there is much of interest here. One of the most fascinating chapters describes ""urine therapy""--which involves swallowing, injecting or rubbing urine on the skin or eyes, which is advocated by various practitioners of ayurvedic and other alternative forms of medicine. Another essay effectively challenges the idea that cannibalism has ever been a widespread practice anywhere in the world, since nearly all of the evidence for it appears in secondhand reports. Updating addenda have been tacked on after most essays, but the lack of editing of the essays themselves results in overlapping discussions of some topics, with little transitional material. The essays, though united only by their underlying skepticism, present a witty and erudite rejection of pseudoscience. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-393-32238-5
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