Weird Earth: Debunking Strange Ideas About Our Planet

Donald R. Prothero. Red Lightning, $20 (248p) ISBN 978-1-68435-061-2

Geologist Prothero (Fantastic Fossils) offers a breath of intellectual fresh air with this amusing look at how to dispel endemic pseudoscience and conspiracy theories through rational thinking. Prothero begins with an explanation of how science evaluates ideas based on evidence and peer review, and notes how believers in conspiracy theories and religious myths like “Young Earth” creationism trust emotions more than facts. Prothero examines an array of bizarre ideas, from the Flat Earth Society and theories that a NASA-Hollywood conspiracy faked the Moon landings, to “water-witching” (or dowsing) and healing crystals. Less-known groups include people who think the Earth is hollow, and Christians Against Dinosaurs, who insist that the field of paleontology, and all of its findings, is a lie created by “Big Paleo” to discredit creationism. As Prothero takes on one crackpot notion after another, his writing is accessible and often wry. With its wide variety of topics and sharp insights, Prothero’s latest delivers something weird for every reader. (Sept.)