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The books mentioned below are in no particular order of merit. Some of these books are possibly out of print but a search using the ISBN number can be productive.
by Carl Sagan
Headline Book Publishing ISBN 0-7472-1554-5
The Demon-Haunted World - Science as a Candle in the Dark convincingly debunks 'alien abduction', 'channellers', faith-healer fraud and much else. Along the way (Sagan) refutes the argument that science destroys spirituality, asks why scientific study is so often stigmatized and provides a 'baloney detection kit' for thinking through political, social and other issues. He proposes a delicate blend of skepticism and openness which is the key to science and also to democracy.
"Sagan's parting gift to the world - this book should be required reading for critical thinking courses - courses which are lamentably lacking in most areas of education. Fascinating, enlightening, in this volume the author's sheer joy in the wonder and beauty of our Universe shines through." RWS
by Patrick Moore
Wyndham Publications ISBN 0-352-39776-4
Can You Speak Venusian? Over the years renowned astronomer Patrick Moore has collected information on the more unconventional ideas of our time. Now, in his familiar, inimitable style he acts as devil's advocate and invites you to join him in the fascinating realm of the Flat Earth, the fallacy of evolution and sundry visitors from Venus.....
"This little known volume is a fascinating study of those Patrick Moore calls Independent Thinkers whom he distinguishes from cranks. This is perhaps a finer discrimination than I can see but this book is a wonderfully entertaining survey with frequent moments of great hilarity" RWS
by Russell Miller
Penguin/Sphere ISBN 0-7474-0332-5
Bare-Faced Messiah - The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard is the inexorable unmasking of Hubbard, the savior who never was. Every biography of Hubbard published by the self-styled Church of Scientology is interwoven with lies, half-truths and ludicrous embellishments. The wondrous irony of this deception is that the true story is much more bizarre, much more improbable, than any of the lies.
"The founder of a quack method of psychoanalysis, Dianetics, that is now trying to re-invent itself as a religion, one time science fiction writer Hubbard found new ways of exploiting that well-known human trait - gullibility - as his followers do to this day." RWS
NOW AVAILABLE FREE ON THE WEB HERE COURTESY OF CLAMBAKE
by Richard Feynman
Allen Lane The Penguin Press ISBN 0-7139-9251-4
The Meaning of it All - Richard Feynman was a true scientific genius, years after his death his unique manner of thinking continues to inspire and astonish. At the peak of his career he gave three lectures on the theme "a scientist looks at society". Questions addressed include "What is science and what is its true value?" "Can scientific views be reconciled with religious beliefs?" "Why in this supposedly scientific age is there such widespread fascination with flying saucers, faith healing, astrology and Martian invasion?"
"A truly excellent little book in which one of the finest minds looks at various questions and brings a clear and penetrating insight to bear. This book should be part of the school curriculum for many reasons, but one above all - Feynman shows that rational inquiry can be not only edifying and enlightening but also fun!" RWS
by Robin Lane Fox
Viking/Penguin ISBN 0-670-82412-7
The Unauthorized Version - Truth and Fiction in the Bible is a historian's reading - which puts historical truth first. From biblical prophecy to modern archaeology Robin Lane Fox explores the problems of fact and fiction. If parts of the bible are story is there some human or literary truth in the way in which they are told?
"A most interesting book and a real eye-opener to those fed a diet of bible stories as a child and a rejoinder to those folk who believe every single, even self-contradictory, word." RWS
by Lewis Carroll edited by Martin Gardner
Illustrated by Sir John Tenniel
The Annotated Alice - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. In the case of Alice, says Gardner, we are dealing with a very curious, complicated kind of nonsense, written for British readers of another century, and we need to know a great many things that are not part of the text if we wish to capture its full wit and flavor. Children today are bewildered and sometimes frightened by the nightmarish atmosphere of Alice's dreams. It is only because adults....continue to relish the Alice books that they are assured of immortality.
"An immensely enjoyable re-visiting of the two classic Alice books made all the more intriguing by Gardner's erudite and charming notes. A further plus is the inclusion of John Tenniel's illustrations." RWS
by Richard Dawkins
Unweaving the Rainbow - Science, Delusion and The Appetite for Wonder. The wonder of the Universe and our place in it is revealed through science in ways otherwise impossible to appreciate or imagine. Dawkins urges us to see that the desire for what is beautiful should not lead us away from the search for what is true. Still less should we be tempted towards the false refuges of pseudoscience and superstition. Whether in the analysis of starlight or soundwaves, animal footprints or human DNA, the seemingly miraculous worlds that science continues to reveal should inspire rather than undermine the poetic imagination.
"Dawkins succeeds admirably in his aim, one, incidentally, held dear by Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan, in showing that scientific knowledge adds to, not detracts from the beauty and wonder of our Universe. I am glad to say he still retains that occasional waspishness which he deploys to great effect." RWS
by James Randi
James Randi: Psychic Investigator - In Search of the Paranormal. This book, based on a TV series, is by no means Randi's only work on these subjects. Randi, magician and celebrated psychic investigator, is uncompromising in his quest to unveil the world of the paranormal. Here he examines astrology, spiritualism, dowsing, healing, telepathy and other supernatural claims and challenges the psychics to demonstrate their paranormal abilities and subjects their powers to rigorous scientific scrutiny.
"What do you think Randi finds? I found myself in the strange position of almost feeling sorry for some of the subjects trying to demonstrate their powers to Randi - then again no one forced them to appear for testing." RWS
by Thomas L Thompson
Random House/Jonathan Cape ISBN 0-224-03977-6
The Bible in History - How Writers Create a Past - In this lucid and fascinating book Professor Thompson shows that we misunderstand the Bible if we read it as history, a modern concept completely incompatible with the world-view of antiquity. Combining literary criticism of biblical texts and detailed analysis of ancient history, he shows that we have to look at the Bible as a body of literature that reflects the philosophical and moral views of its authors.....Thompson challenges us to re-interpret the Bible and its relevance for today - because, as he puts it, 'it is only as history that the Bible doesn't make any sense'.
"After a somewhat turgid start this book, once it gets going, sends sacred cows tumbling and nonsensical imaginary 'history' is thoroughly refuted. Incidentally, the dimly discernable truth behind the David and Solomon tales of an Israelite great 'kingdom' gives no comfort to the modern day Israeli settlers with their appeals to a non-existent past in order to justify their actions. Not that truth has ever troubled religious bigots overmuch." RWS
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