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

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good heavens. What a bunch of crybabies you Darwinists are.

Ste said...

Crybabies? I think you misunderstand...

coturnix said...

Anyone who uses the word "Darwinist" needs to be placed onto the outside table where leftover crappy books are sold for 25 cents each.

I'd also pre-print little notes to put in the re-shelved books, explaining briefly to the bookstore staff why placing those books on the Science shelf is in error.

TheBlackHandOfGod said...

Darwinism? Not at all: this is Dawkinsian lunacy at its finest! Here's to it!

winston said...

I love the project - and am already thinking about joining. However, this might leave the science section completely empty in most of the Budapest bookstores... ;)

The Ridger, FCD said...

As someone who once worked in a bookstore, I can say you're (a) not making the statement you think you are, because a lot of customer reshelving happens all the time and usually it seems completely random, probably due to people just changing their mind and being too lazy to walk back to where they got it, and (b) you're making a lot of hard work for part-timers not even making minimum wage who have nothing to say about where books go. The most impact you can hope for is that people will stop going to the bookstores and buy everything on line because the clerks never can find anything in the store...

Steven said...

Wow, another worthless symbolic gesture instead of acutely doing something.


LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME, I CARE!

Ste said...

Just because I have this blog doesn't mean I'm not actually doing anything else.

Madeleine said...

Oh I'm SOOOOOO going to start doing this. Fabulous idea. I have been emailing various pseudoscientific snake-oil sellers too, of late. I think I might do it with a bit of a word to the manager too, mind you.

Andrew Dalke said...

Some years back I was looking for Douglas Hofstadter's "Metamagical Themas." After first looking then asking, I found it shelved under "New Age." And inside the book was a small bookmark-sized piece of paper someone had stuck inside asking the question "Is this book worth your soul?". Apparently at least two different people didn't know it was a collection of essays written for the magazine "Scientific American".

Silvermute said...

This is an important public service to defeat the Prophets Of Woo. I'm going to kick-start the Newcastle UK campaign and put this twaddle where it belongs - humour, maybe.

I've found "the moon landings were a hoax" books in the science section before now: they're going too...

Marcus Breese said...

Apparently you aren't the first to think of this...

What makes you think that the bookstore was the one to stock the books you moved in the science section in the first place? I friend of mine just told me a story about her telling someone at a bookstore that a book was mis-stocked in the science section. The guy just looked at her and said something to the effect of "was that back over there? those religious nut jobs keep moving it".

It is quite possible that there are dualing factions attempting to move books from the science and religion sections. I would say that eventually an equilibrium would be reached, but that might be going too far.

Now that is something that I find amusing.

martijn said...

A very good idea. I think i might join you in this quest.

Cay said...

I applaud your efforts! I plan to follow your lead in my next bookstore visit.

Chris said...

In addition, you need to find out how we can write letters to the corporate offices of these companies and get the books re-classified in the databases.

whomever1 said...

Bad enough if the bookstores shelve this stuff in the wrong place, but my public library cataloged it under
Evolution (biology), Molecular evolution, Genetics, and Teleology, and shelved it at 576.8 (Dewey for microbiology). Do we have to worry about the Library of Congress too now?

Dubito said...

Ste, I salute thee. I have just been directed to your blog by Pharyngula, and I soundly kicked myself for not having thought of this myself. Unfortunately, I have to agree with other commentors that we are waging a war against the wooers. I may have to print up little explantory bookmarks.

Peter said...

I applaud your efforts but fear you may have an unintended effect. If bookstores note that these pseudo-science books are no longer in their proper places, they may order more, making the authors of such works more profitable and funding even more such examples of drek.

Still, best of luck with your efforts, I may pitch in the next time I'm in a bookstore.

Joshua said...

New Age magic-type stuff is not the same as fake "we are always right" psuedo-Christian, psuedo-scientific creationist crap. Please put the fake science in the fake religion section. New Age pagans don't deny science; they just don't think it has all the answers. Those "Christians" deny science and then use its fruits (like television and heart stints). They'd burn scientists and pagans at the stake if they could.

Lori Blough said...

Actually, the major bookstores do their serious inventory by electronic scanners these days - and day to day inventory by point of sale at the register. If it doesn't get scanned in the science section and it hasn't been sold it'll just get scanned later in the new age (or whatever) section.

Larry Fafarman said...

I'd call it the start of something ugly.

I am going to call the Barnes & Noble store in Irvine and recommend that any deliberately misshelved books be put in the best-seller section.

DV said...

Superb concept. I will participate in my local bookstores and libraries.

Ian MacLeod said...

Now, this is fascinating! I've been doing this kind of thing for twenty - no, wait, more like thirty - no - well, I've been doing it for a LONG time. The "I.D>" people are far from the first to insist that religion is scientific. I had a running argument with a Jesuit (or so he claimed; I suspect he flunked) who insisted that since God invented science, all Christian literature was scientific. Personally, I tend towards putting it in the "fantasy" section, since no one seems to have a "bullshit" section.

Renaming a thing, such as altering "Creationism" to "Intelligent Design" does NOT make it something it isn't. It just confuses some people; the neocons have been doing the same thing for the last six years. Sorry, but calling a law the "Clean Air" act, or Clear Skies or whatever it is, doesn't clean the air or clear the skies; allowing mercury to be treated as non-toxic, raising the allowed amounts of arsenic, etc, make it dirtier no matter what it's called. Calling creationism I.D. still doesn't make it scientific (I know, it's the same as magic to many religious types - science, I mean). Whether you worship Thor and Odin, Brahma, Yahweh or whatever/whoever - it's mythology, fantasy, death-avoidance literature or a lot of other possible classifications, but it ain't science. I applaud this person's effort; there's enough confusion as it is without deliberately adding to it.

Ian

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