Monday, July 30, 2007

Borders, 7/30/2007

I emerge from my hardened command bunker to strike another blow against the forces of stupidity. This time my quest, nay, crusade takes me to Borders in an undisclosed location in Southern California. Shielding my eyes against the piercing glare of the California sunshine, and with gritty determination etched onto my face, I head towards the store.

Let's see how much help Borders needs from this friendly local biologist.

A lot it seems. Behe again:

It really doesn't seem to be selling very well, there's a ton of copies languishing on the shelves. Well, if they were in the correct section of the bookstore, then perhaps people would be buying them! I also try to ignore the proximity to Darwin's Origins because thinking about such scientific sacrilege would only make one angry - and what does Yoda say about anger, kids? Scoffing at Borders' lack of business-sense and lack of shame, these books are helpfully relocated to "Religion". Next!

Earlier today I was browsing the blogs that have kindly (and sometimes not so kindly) linked to this wonderful, altruistic project of mine. I was amused to find one of those links was from William Dembski's blog (a non-evolutionary, non-scientist who is just as bad as Behe, but doesn't sell as many books - link). Even funnier, in typical fashion, the minion that posted about this blog couldn't get her facts straight - what a surprise: "At a blog called “biologists helping bookstores,” a Pasadena-based woman whose handle is Shandon explains how she deliberately misshelved Mike Behe’s Edge of Evolution, and a number of other books - distributing them around the store according to her private tastes."

I remembered this humorous article, and went in search to see how badly the bookstore needed help with Dembski's science-fiction. I couldn't find anything. But, unperturbed, and armed with knowledge of the power of the modern microcomputer, I go and search the store at one of Borders' handy computer stations. Apparently, No Free Lunch was supposed to be in "science". Ah! I found it squeezed in the top corner of the science section:

It's surely not going to sell there, what with it being virtually hidden and mis-categorized. I pick it up and move down to the Theology:Church section to place it where it belongs, where I find a delightful surprise. Another Dembski book, Intelligent Design, is already there!

I place his other book snugly next to it, and Nuns by the mysterious Evangelisti. To see if a secret splinter cell of BHB hasn't already helped Borders, I recheck "Dembski" on the fantastic microcomputer device again. Yep, Borders has his Intelligent Design book in Theology, and No Free Lunch in Science. Borders are clearly a very confused company. I am honored to assist.

Almost hiding on the bottom shelf are two ID books by Jonathan Wells (of the hilarious Discovery Institute), perilously close to Watson's The Double Helix - for frak's sake, have they no shame? These seem to be particularly nasty and specious examples of the nonscience I aim to reclassify.

Before, on my way to the science section, I had a laugh to myself at the "Speculation" section of "New Age" - like they need a subsection. Not being able to stop myself, I helpfully relocate these two books to this far more correct section.

On the far-right of the bottom bookshelf, if you look closely, is also a Pokemon book. I really must train the Junior-Biologist Bookstore Aid Brigade more carefully.

~ Ste

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Irvine Barnes & Noble, 7/25/2007

Barnes & Noble in the cultural wastela-, er, heartland of Irvine. I drop by the lone bookstore in the huge outdoor mall, The Spectrum. Bracing myself, I approach the science section.

The science section is tiny, only two small aisles three shelves high, but it doesn't take long to come across a miscategorized book - and it wasn't what I expected. God is not Great by the celebrity atheist Christopher Hitchens.

Seeing as my aim is to re-shelve religion and/or philosophy books to the correct part of the store, I am duty-bound to act. This is a book on atheism from a non-scientist, and it simply does not belong in the science section. Science is a secular process and has nothing to do with the question of the existence, or the non-existence, of a God. It is thus relocated to the Philosophy shelves upstairs. "But what about Dawkins?!" I hear you cry. Dawkins is another well-known atheist, I agree, but he is best known as an evolutionary biologist and his books are strongly evolution-themed.

Let's see what else we can find.

I think I might have picked a bad week to start this quest. Behe's new book must have been just released:

Four copies of The Edge of Evolution were discovered once more in the science section.

I flip a copy and read the back. Here's the beginning of the first quote from the back cover: "Until the past decade and the genomics revolution, Darwin's theory rested on indirect evidence and reasonable speculation..." (Dr. Philip Skell, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at Pennsylvania State University, and member of the National Academy of Sciences). That's not true! I am emboldened by this bare-faced lie from this well-respected elderly chemist, pick up all four copies, and stroll upstairs.

Now, I aim for accuracy in my recategorization, and I was still slightly mad at the lies on the back cover (read the "Editorial Reviews" at Amazon for a sampling), so I sought out the most appropriate section of the store:

Behe's lie-covered volume now rightly resides in the Religious Fiction section (click on the image to see the label). A job well done.

Since the puny science section carried very few science books, there wasn't much other opportunity for other mistakes on behalf of Barnes & Noble. After finishing browsing science, I went to browse the expansive Religion department and got a nice suprise:

A book by Lee Strobel called The Case for a Creator. This book claims to be a scientific investigation on evidence that points to God's existence, and it is shelved correctly in Religion. As I was saying, science is secular, but that doesn't mean it cannot inform people's religion, just as science can inform people's atheism. In fact, it can do this because its a secular process.

How did Barnes & Noble do? Pathetically small science section, the usual Behe books, a non-science atheism book. Not so great. Picked up points with the Strobel book though.

~ Ste

Saturday, July 21, 2007

La Jolla Bookstar, 7/20/2007

Bookstar, La Jolla, San Diego. It happens to be Harry Potter release night (hence the big queue). I go and investigate the science section.

An egregious error on behalf of the staff at this popular local haunt has resulted in six copies of Michael Behe's new religion book, The Edge of Evolution, to be set aside books in the "science", and the "evolutionary biology" shelves. Oops! Well, this bookselling company can't be blamed for a little lack of scientific literacy. I mean, it even has the word "evolution" in the title - it must be science, right? Wrong.

I spring into action. Interestingly, their "New Age" section (which, bizarrely, is as large as "science") is in the same aisle as "science", but on the opposite side.

Six copies of Behe's new non-science book are relocated to their rightful place next to Everyday Magic, The Love Spell, and Grimoire for the Green Witch (what is "grimoire" anyway?).

[Note to self: next time place books in alphabetical order by author to further aid bookstore staff.]

I even find a copy of Behe's truly laughable pseudo-science Darwin's Black Box in the "evolutionary biology section"! After chuckling a geeky chuckle for a few seconds it is also helpfully relocated - this time next to the far more appropriate Pop! Goes the Witch - A Disinformation Guide to 21st Century Witchcraft.

After a thorough scan of the remaining science shelves for other blatant nonsense, I find it all in good order. Mission accomplished. Apart from the Behe error, Bookstar La Jolla did ok.

~ Ste

Friday, July 20, 2007

The start of something beautiful

What's all this about then?

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but some bookstores seem to have a little problem discerning science from non-science.  I'm specifically talking about biology books vs. creationist books.  Sometimes, you will find psuedo-scientific rubbish such as "intelligent design" books next to such authors as Darwin, Mayr, Gould, et al.

Now, before you get all worked-up and charge into your local bookstore demanding to see the manager, pause to realise just how successful creationism has been in blurring the lines of what science actually is in the public's eye.  So successful, in fact, that books whose main argument is that "God did it" enjoy shelf-space with some of the finest minds ever to grace humanity.

This is unacceptable, and something must be done.  Booksellers are not scientists, maybe we shouldn't expect them to be able to discern between science and books desperately trying to wrap themselves in scientific credibility.  I, however, am a scientist - and I can clearly see when an error has been made when stocking the shelves of the science section.

It is my mission to correctly re-shelve books to the appropriate section of the bookstore.  

For example, "Darwin's Black Box", the famous psuedo-science book by the non-evolutionary non-scientist Michael Behe, should not be in the "Evolutionary Biology" section, but something more appropriate, such as "New Age", "Religion", "Christianity", or even "Fiction".  You get the idea.

I call on all readers of this blog to follow my example.  Help your local bookstore correctly stock their science section.  Spread the word.

~ Ste