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 christianbooks.com, Dembski at parable.com, 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."

18 comments:

Jason said...

You know, you're kind of an idiot if you automatically think "ID = Christian" and thus that any and all Christian bookstores must stock loads of ID books.

Of course, you're an idiot anyway for disrupting retailers by "reshelving" their stock from the manner proscribed by their head offices. Hey, here's a brilliant idea: why don't you approach the head offices about how they choose to group books instead of making a huge jackass of yourself?

Troff said...

Hello BHB/Ste,

... is it appropriate for us to post you images of the similar but internationally located actions to which you've inspired us? :-)

Many thanks...

maundering gadabout said...

troff:

Go for it! Please feel free to document your re-shelving of pseudoscience. The more, the merrier!

jason:

I don't assume all Christian bookstores would stock ID, nor do I make the mistake of thinking ID=Christian. If you read the post, it's clear that even the clerk at the store isn't much of a fan of ID. But it does seem odd that they would stock some ID but not the most popular material.

Also, Ste is currently working hard at contacting a lot of different folks and investigating how and why books get shelved where they do. There should be a post in the near future on just that theme.

And finally, I'm all kinds of idiot, not just one kind.

Ste said...

Hi Troff,

Thank you for helping your local bookstore. If you'd like to document your escapades, I'd happily link/repost them from your blog/site. :)


Jason,

Try actually reading the post before commenting next time. Thanks.


~ Ste

Jason said...

You know, I'm all for you guys posting all the information you can about where you do this "reshelving" so I and others can contact the stores in question and make sure things are put back to where the stores' policies say they should be.

Seth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seth said...

You're accomplishing nothing. This is the type of prank I pulled in middle school. Grow up and stop preaching to the choir, so to speak.

First off: Large bookstores have very nonspecific genre designations. A lot of books are ambiguous as to their genre. All you have to do is write in, as a biologist, and suggest that the books are based in religion and as a customer with training in biology you know they are religious in nature. However, you have done a good job at not just losing your credibility, but throwing it away for a shot at Internet stardom. Great choice, chief!

There are books on the shelves that are actually dangerous: Take Kevin Trudeau's line of pseudoscientific nonsense. It's topping the bestseller lists. You could tell people about the time he's spent in prison for impersonating a doctor and credit card fraud, for instance.

Instead, you make life difficult for booksellers. Do you think we support every book we sell? No, but that's why we have the First Amendment, and that's how capitalism works. People want what they want. Misplacing books does NOTHING but frustrate people, and mean we will eventually have to put them back where they belong.

I don't believe most of the books in the religion section to have a morsel of truth to them, nor the "New Age" section. I suspect most atheists don't. Would it be morally defensible to move those to the fiction section to prove a point? I don't believe so, and I wish you weren't so blinded by juvenile self-righteousness.

Los? said...

Okay then...the following books were moved from the Science:Biology section to the Religion:Theology section at the Borders bookstore in Corvallis, OR on Monday, August 13:

Behe, The Edge of Evolution

Behe, Darwin's Black Box

Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design

There were others too, including (I think) one or two by Dembski, as well as Collins, The Language of God IIRC, but then again this was a week ago, so I could be wrong. I do recall that there weren't too many of the usual suspects in that section that day.

As someone who worked in a bookstore some years back, I have a hard time imagining that the booksellers get too peeved about this sort of thing. It took me less than five minutes to move five or six titles from one end of the bookstore to the other; with all the moved books in the same section, assuming the employees even decide to move it back, it's not taking much of their time. And either way, they're getting paid for it.

Seth said...

Why not leave books on the floor? Why not treat the store like a landfill? The employees get paid for it!

Booksellers DO get peeved about this sort of thing. It makes it harder to find the products that people want. It makes the ID debate seem amateurish. It makes the scientific community seem as conceited and impish as the opposing side wants the public to believe.

What difference does it make if this is in science or religion? ID is a theory like any other, and science can treat it like one. In which case, it will lack any semblance of reliability.

Ste said...

Hi Seth,

What do you mean when you use the word "theory"?

Should we let the "theory of ID" be taught alongside the theory of evolution? Is ID science? Can an idea which only has one pre-arrived inevitable conclusion that "God did it", ever be anything other than in the realm of theology and/or religion? Science cannot treat ID like a theory, nor even like a hypothesis because science cannot test it. There is no data to confirm. No evidence to scrutinize. As soon as the supernatural enters the fray, science exits.

And I'll say again, the point of this endeavour is not to physically rearrange books, but to highlight the fact that ID is not science.

Good evening,
~ Ste

Los? said...

"Why not leave books on the floor? Why not treat the store like a landfill?"

You think this doesn't happen in a bookstore already? Trust me, I've seen human excrement get sopped up off of floors in the kids' area back in my day, just a few years back. Moving a small amount of books around is small potatoes.

"It makes it harder to find the products that people want. It makes the ID debate seem amateurish."

Actually, moving books purporting to support ID to the Religion section puts them directly where their most likely audience is shopping anyway. Customers find a book that caters to their world view, bookstores make more money off of the transactions, the Science section gets limited to books that support sound science--everyone wins!

As for the other comment, the ID "debate" is amateurish by nature. That's the point.

"ID is a theory like any other, and science can treat it like one."

BZZT, wrong. You misunderstand the word theory as it's used in the scientific community. Go here and compare the first definition with the second, and you'll understand what this means.

the artilleryman said...

God bless you Ste--no, wait, ah, I'm all confused now.

But seriously, right on man, you're providing a very valuable service-not to mention some very good blog entertainment to boot.

Carry on the good work!

Seth said...

ID should not be taught alongside evolution, nor should Lamarck's theory, nor should the theory of "lift", etc. ad nauseam.

There is a lot of science that is supernatural. In fact, the world is blanketed in this... gosh, I don't know WHAT it is, but it behaves as both a particle and a wave! If that isn't supernatural, I don't know what is.

Don't presume that because I disagree with your methods-- which are juvenile and accomplish nothing-- that I also disagree with your premise.

Seth said...

By the way, you mention pitifully small science sections in bookstores, and I have to agree. However, franchise bookstores have to cater to the desires of the average customer. If you look at the nonfiction bestsellers in these stores, you'll see things like "The Secret": A book which, as I tell any customer willing to listen, is a crock of shit peddled by an Australian reality TV producer and promoted excessively by Oprah. Then you have Kevin Trudeau, who is doing real harm to people by telling them that "conventional" medicine is not enough, though he has no education in medicine himself and has spent time behind bars for credit card fraud and impersonating a doctor.

So while you're crusading, maybe you should be more vocal. Not more self-aggrandizing, you couldn't if you tried. I mean more DIRECT. If everyone who comments affirmatively wrote a letter, made a call, spoke to a manager-- did SOMETHING to express their displeasure with the current system-- the books would be moved by now.

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Ste said...

Ooo, my first comment spam...

**turns on human detection stuff**

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milf said...
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