Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fringe-ology by Steve Volk ****

Nobel-winner Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said
Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.
When author Steve Volk slightly mis-quotes Szent-Gyorgyi in Fringe-ology, his point was that while science professes to be rational, logical and, most importantly, explainable; much scientific discovery is mysterious and inexplicable.

Why does science have these two contradictory sides, but only admits to one? The author's answer is that humans do not like to say/think/feel: "I don't know." When you get past all the UFOs, ghosts, and other paranormal anecdotes, this is the bottom line: No one wants to admit "I don't know." This underlies the behavior of rationalists, skeptics, atheists, fundamentalists, and fanatics of all colors and stripes. In this way both the strident rationalists and fundamentalists share a common fervor and close-mindedness.

Volk explains this with reference to the amygdala, fight-or-flight, and evolution, but this explanation seems like more of what the author is so intent on debunking ... nobody really knows why, but nobody (author included) wants to admit "I don't know."

If you don't have a current list of important questions where your answer is "I don't know," you should read this book. It might be helpful, but really, "I don't know."

P.S. Note there are three Steve Volks. The American writer Steve Volk and the British writer Stephen Volk both write about the supernatural. What are the odds? The third Steve Volk is a history professor at Oberlin. Isn't the Internet wonderful?

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