Reviews; June 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Nickell, Powell, Gibbs, Atkins; 6 Page(s)
Books promoting pseudoscience are often popular and profitable--James Redfield¿s The Celestine Prophecy has sat on the best-seller list for more than two years. Skeptical books are much less marketable and so are comparatively rare. Rarer still are those of the caliber of Carl Sagan¿s new work, which joins a small but distinguished group that includes such classics as Charles Mackay¿s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (published in 1843) and Martin Gardner¿s Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (1957).
Sagan, director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, is perhaps the best known popularizer of science today. Moreover, he has written and lectured extensively on the paranormal and is an active fellow--as am I--of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), one of the better known investigative organizations in the field.