Thursday, August 23, 2007

Skylight Books, Los Angeles, 8/24/2007

I decide to branch out further in my quest for common sense in science shelving by visiting Skylight Books in Los Feliz, LA. Before entering the store I notice a cat curled up sleeping in the window. This turned out to be a good omen. Cats = Good. Independent bookstores = Good. Cats + Independent bookstores = Fan-bloody-tastic.

This was a small bookstore, so I wasn't surprised to find a small science section. However, not only did I not find a single Intelligent Design nonscience book, but it was packed with great books from Darwin to Gould, Dawkins to Mayr - along with some interesting-looking physics books. The only way you'd know creationism existed in this science section was an Ayala's Darwin's Gift: to Science and Religion.

So, I liked the cosy bookstore cat. I liked the intelligently-designed science section. I especially liked the organization of the store, placing "Nature/Science" next to "Lesbian". This resulted in a little lesbian-creep into science, with a compilation called The New Fuck You: Adventures in Lesbian Reading over the divider into "Science", next to Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee.

Not forgetting my mission to aid bookstores correctly shelve science, I helpfully pop this little lesbian gem into it's proper place.

Moving to the religion section, I saw another fine example of category-clashing, with "Erotica" slap-next to the "Religion/Mythology" shelves.

"Religion/Mythology" is equally well-stocked. The top two shelves are taken up with fairy tales (no comment), and all the ancient holy texts are present, as well as some fascinating tomes dealing with theology and mythology.

Only one ID book is present. The Case for Christ by our familiar friend Lee Strobel.

Since Strobel doesn't even claim to be science, and he always is present in "Religion", I have come to be fond of his non-pseudoscientific books. They are a reminder there is some sanity in this world.

Thoroughly pleased with Skylight books, I make a purchase and head up the road to a coffee shop with free wi-fi to document this successful mission. If you're in LA and want to buy a book - make a beeline to 1818 N. Vermont Avenue and support a great independent bookstore.

~ Ste

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Son Shines on BHB

Aug 16. Irvine, CA.

Having hunted down the elusive Ste (it took weeks, I wouldn't recommend trying it), I managed to convince him to mend his erring ways. Not reshelve books, you say? Hardly. I convinced him to give the clerks at B&N and Borders a well-deserved rest and try one of the other bookstores in OC. And what more natural place to start than the other end of the ID spectrum? We headed down to Sonshine Books in Irvine.

The Idea being, of course, to see how a Christian Bookstore might treat ID books. We were a tad startled by the size of the place, though they sell a good deal more than books. But a first pass through the store came up empty. Then we met Alex, a helpful clerk-cum-theologian who showed us the (small) Creation/Science section. Perhaps not surprisingly, all of the creation science books are in the Creation/Science section. Kudos! These guys are shelving stuff the right way. But far from being lazy biologists, instead of calling it a days work, we took a closer look.

Aside from the accidental but fortunate framing of the photo (which suggests that Creation/Science is a cult or false teachings), the first noticeable feature of this section is the notable lack of books on intelligent design. Where'e Behe? Dembski? Down at the bottom there there's a Strobel book Ste previously found appropriately shelved in the religion section. But none of the big guns.

Just to make sure we weren't missing something, we checked over in bestsellers, but nada. Ste, wary of relinquishing editorial control, moved that last sentence. So don't hold me responsible if it should be above the photo.

Done wrestling over editorial control, we continued to wonder what was up with the lack of ID. My first thought, conspiracy theorist that I am, was that the Discovery Institute or the government or aliens were somehow specifically avoiding selling ID books in Christian bookstores, perhaps to establish a veneer of scientific credibility. But a quick check of the internet tubes finds ID being sold online in Christian bookstores. One can find Behe at, Dembski at, and even Campbell at the ever-fundamentalist Michigan State University Press ( no not that Campbell ). OK, OK, to preempt the hate mail and legal battles, I have no idea what other drivel msupress publishes. The point is, Christian booksellers sell ID. So much for conspiracy.

Why then, does Sonshine bookstore not sell the big ID books, the bestsellers, the authors that make it onto Colbert? The short answer is that it's anybody's guess. But, coming back to our friend Alex, we think there are one of two possibilities.

Alex, bless his little cotton socks, endured 10 minutes of conversation with us. And it became clear from talking to him that he wasn't a fan of ID. Though he seemed a conservative Christian, he didn't think there was a conflict between science and religion. One can't test, he posited, whether God is constantly creating. One can't test that the world was created, exactly as we observe it today, 10 minutes ago. He didn't seem at all put off to find out that we were biologists (yes, me too!), and didn't seem to find much conflict between religion and science. In fact, he was rather hostile to the mention of ID or creation science -- anything that tries to mix the two. While he's only a clerk at the store, his attitude was suggestive of the possibility that the store has intentionally avoided ID because of it bastardization of both science and religion. If that's the case, we give Sonshine Books a big two BHB thumbs up!

There is another possibility, one Ste and I personally think the more likely explanation. After perusing the bookstore for some while, it became clear that manliness was an important theme. There were separate sections for boys, teens, and men (we checked, but Dembski wasn't in the boys section either), and gobs of literature about a man's duty to the Lord. As this idea was just occurring to us, the manliest macho evidence possible sprung into being in front of us:

Clearly, these people take machismo seriously. Is it possible, then, that Behe and Demsbki are just not man enough for Sonshine Books? I leave it to you, good reader, to debate this issue. But when considering Intelligent Design, as the mighty Chuck Norris would say "Not in our homes. Not with our kids."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Borders, A different one (promise), 8/06/2007

Now, some people say that Orange County, California is sorely lacking in diversity, and is basically a cultural vacuum. Others say that Orange County is Los Angeles' New Jersey. But I think this is unfair. Just look at the wide variety of bookstores "The OC" enjoys. There's:

Borders, Costa Mesa;
Barnes & Noble, Newport Beach;
Book Soup, Costa Mesa (CLOSED);
Borders, Newport Beach;
Borders, Mission Viejo;
Barnes & Noble, Orange;
Barnes & Noble, Irvine;
Book Baron, Anaheim (CLOSED);
Borders, Tustin;
and not forgetting Borders, Westminster.

I have trouble picking from this embarrassment of riches. So to randomly choose, I set up a map of Southern California on the wall and thrown a dart at it. I come close to obliterating Catalina Island, ending up in the Pacific somewhere. With that in mind I head for Borders in Huntington Beach.

I arrive and make a beeline for "science". In an attempt to widen my mission past the confines of biology, I check out the Astronomy section:

To my delight there is not one problem with the handful books I find. The bookstore has managed to not shelve a single astrology book amongst the science. According to how Intelligent Designista Michael Behe defines science, however, astrology should be considered a scientific theory!

I'm happy that when is comes to the cosmos, this bookstore agrees with science, and not Behe. It seems, though, that this bookstore is mightily confused:

Behe's nonscience (including a copy of Darwin's Black Box) is helpfully relocated to the "Christian Bestsellers" shelf in Religion. They should sell plenty more copies now it's in it pride of place in the correct part of the store:

Note it now shares shelf-space with other intelligent design literature already present by Strobel, and, two shelves down, Dembski's Intelligent Design.

Now, I've seen in other forums on the internets that ID proponents are sometimes labelled "IDiots". Since I believe everything I read on the web, I take this to heart. Look closely, and you'll see Darwin's Black Box next to The Idiot's Guide to The Reformation and Protestantism. I am even doing all the audience-targeting for this store.

I also find a copy of Wells' awful diatribe, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design in biology. This horrible rag doesn't even belong in a bookstore, nevermind in religion.

I remove this nasty tome and reshelve it in politics. I then go and wash my hands.

Another good day's work. Back to the lab to read, write, experiment and generally science-out. Awesome.

~ Ste