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


Christopher Chandler said...

Hey Ste - Keep up the good work!

I too used to work in a bookstore, and I think you are doing a good thing. Yeah, workers might be told to reshelve a few things, but we were always paid by the hour, so we would just be doing something else if not that.

I'm now a social psychologist and I am always appalled at what gets put in the psychology section at bookstores. Often not a single book will be based on scientific research methods or theory. It's all new-agey pseudoscience, uninformed opinion (a la Dr Phil/Dr Laura) or obsolete psychoanalysis (Freud/Jung). The bread and butter that makes up virtually all present academic psychological research is completely absent. Sad...

shrimplate said...

To paraphrase Arlo, if just one person does it, no biggie, if two people do it (in harmony) they'll think they're gay, but if three people do it, they'll think it's an organization, and if fifty people do it, well, it's a movement!

I'd probably do something like that myself but I don't photograph well.

Corvi said...

Hurray! Thank you for your defense of science. I live in the Bible Belt (NC) and Behe's kind of crap is endemic here. I shall re-shelve at my next opportunity. We have two whole bookstores here, so it shouldn't take long.

Jason said...

What are you? 12? Please grow up and do something meaningful with your time. Considering how lax secularists are when it comes to charity, why not donate your time to helping poor people instead?

Ste said...

Ah well, you either get it or you don't I suppose.

My life is FULL of meaning. So much so I have to do banal and childish things to dilute the meaning lest it overpower me.

[laughs at jason's random "secularist" charity comment - wtf?!]

~ Ste

Flimsy Sanity said...

I was blog hopping and ran across a reference to your site. Good idea. I am heading to our bookstore tomorrow morning to do the same since you cannot be everywhere.

nunatak said...

Three comments:

1. Hurrah for random acts of intellectual honesty! But why not have your cake and eat it too? Reshelve AND communicate directly to the bookstore managers/bookseller corporate offices?

2. Sadly, it's not just bookstores. I work at the Natural History Museum in London and **genuine shock horror** even THEY had a copy of Darwin's Black Box in the Evolution section! I corrected the manager immediately and with verbal force (and I also reshelved afterwards).

3. A note to Jason: how can it be that someone with an animated head-banging Enterprise crew as their blog icon write "What are you? 12?"

Creamycam said...

I'm still laughing....

This is my first time to your blog, and I feel compelled to join the cause.

Great work!

ellen b said...

Rock on! Some friends shared this -- and we've all pledged to help esp when we go home to the South. (Last year I started something in a similar vein -- I buy copies of The Feminine Mystique and leave them in airports & public spaces when I travel,

nunatak said...

A postscript to my previous comment:

I just checked the NHM bookshop and to my relief Darwin's Black Box was nowhere to be seen, and neither were any other pseudo-scientific sneakies. My complaint last year must have worked - a lesson to us all!

Scott said...

I'm so glad to have stumbled across this blog. I started doing this a few months ago when I found the book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science mis-shelved in my local bookstore. This particular book is really annoying because at first glance it seems to be just another "Idiots Guide to Science" and at second glance, it turns out to be exactly that - an "IDiots Guide to Science" - reshelved to religion (perhaps fiction would be more appropriate?).

Shawn Wilkinson said...

Awesome cause! I will join you in yur endeavor at my local bookstores.

KevinBBG said...


Is there a difference between religion and fiction?

I've posted about this and link to this blog from my blog:

Mo said...

Hey Ste,

Definitely take your cause up with corporate-level management. I used to work at a chain bookstore, and if you want change to come, that's the best place to go.

As much as I support your cause, I also have a bit of pity for the bookstore workers that will have to try and find these books at some point...perhaps leave a note where they once were, but state they have been moved to a more appropriate section? We have no control over where books are placed, each title's location is determined at a corporate level and arrives already stickered with the section it's supposed to be placed in.

steev said...

not cool. i used to work in a bookstore and am currently a librarian and if someone went about moving my books around, i'd be pissed. my library has behe's first book and it is in the 500s rather than the 200s because, like it or not, it is a book about scientific theories. it is not a theology book or a book about religion; it is a book about biology. now whether or not we should keep a book on the shelves when the theory within it has been disproved is another discussion altogether. do we need to represent all sides of an issue (theories of evolution AND anti- evolution)? that's another 'nother discussion.

i guess i agree with a lot of the posters here: take it up with the management. don't make the lackey's lives miserable.

Ste said...

Behe's book is a book about a supernatural idea, not a scientific theory.

If it were a scientific theory it would have empirical evidence backing it up, gleaned from the scientific method. If it were a scientific hypothesis it would be testable by the scientific method. It has neither.

It is at best speculation, with some biological snippets shoe-horned around his pre-formed religious beliefs. Not good.

~ Ste

Jason said...

"I also try to ignore the proximity to Darwin's Origins"

Why aren't you reshelving Origins, after all it contains unquestionably theological arguments.

Although Ste, I don't really expect consistency (or a clue even) from you.

nunatak said...

Jason. Though Darwin's monumental stack of evidence in _On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection_ does indeed bear upon theology his argument is not, itself, theological, it is empirical.

Jason said...

"Jason. Though Darwin's monumental stack of evidence in _On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection_ does indeed bear upon theology his argument is not, itself, theological, it is empirical."

Arguments from bad design, as contained in origins are unquestionably theological not empirical arguments and are based on theological not empirical evidence.

Ste said...

So, to paraphrase our friend Jason here, "No it's not!"

Excellent argument. Thoroughly thought out and skillfully executed. I applaud you, sir.

~ Ste

raedances said...

This is genius. Sure, part of me has a little sympathy for the confused employees trying to find their 3 or 4 "in stock" copies of Behe, but it seems like religion would be the next logical place to look. They'll find it eventually.

To all the people attacking Darwin: regardless of whether or not he discusses any faith-based ideas, his larger hypothesis (evolution via natural selection) is still testable and falsifiable. In order for something to be considered "science" there has to be a possibility that evidence could prove it wrong (as contrary as that sounds). Science doesn't strive to prove something as true, it aims to repeatedly prove something to be "not false." When people use untestable arguments that must be taken on faith, well, that's not science.

Also, remember that Darwin initially felt his own conclusions to be blasphemous, and overcame quite a struggle between faith and science. It just goes to show that education *can* change minds. Hopefully, by moving Behe to a more appropriate section, someone else will be inspired to widen their point of view.

Jason said...

"So, to paraphrase our friend Jason here, "No it's not!"

Excellent argument. Thoroughly thought out and skillfully executed. I applaud you, sir."

It is hardly my fault it goes over your head and you don't understand it.

Of course you seem to think it is the height of cleverness and intellect to reshelve books in a childish attempt to censor ideas you don't like. So i'm probably expecting to much from you.

The Factician said...


Have you read Origins? It seems you have not... You should pick it up some time. It is quite readable, and interesting on the scientific and the historical level.

Whoever is telling you that its arguments are theological has been lying to you (and I doubt that they read it either).

The_Question said...

I love this! A key element of science is proper classification. Books about religion should be in the religion section of the bookstore. If employees have to make a little extra effort to find a book, that's a small price to pay for intellectual honesty. Keep up the good work!

Thought[sic] said...

Beautiful piece of advocacy, my friend! Have any opinion or motivation to do the same at libraries? I noticed my local library shelves Behe's book right next to evolution and genetics. Ridiculous. Feel free to check out my blog, too, at Best adventures, Tom

allthewhile said...

I will now be moving all atheistic screeds to the Fiction section. Its fun to be childish!

Bob Calder said...

I generally reshelve the Discovery Institute books spine-in to register my vote for no crap in B&N's lousy little science section. It is small enough without crowding out the science with garbage.

Let me put my oar in about Darwin's writing. One of the primary tools of the creationists is removing writing from context. After all, they treat the OT as if it were written by a contemporary omnicient being and not a bunch of ignorant shepherds. But Charles Darwin was a man of his time. Nearly every thinker came away from his college with a theology degree. Darwin and his contemporaries represent a group of religiously grounded thinkers who were examining the world around them and finding things that were observable and explicable.

The librarian should read the review of Behe's recent book in Science.

May I agitate for a list of crap books and a discussion of them?

Vodyanoj said...

Absolutely lovely! I've been known to relocate some tomes by Sheldrake, Velikovsky and such from Astronomy section to their proper place. Good work!