World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Ragged Edge of Science

Article Id: WHEBN0005997068
Reproduction Date:

Title: The Ragged Edge of Science  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: L. Sprague de Camp, L. Sprague de Camp bibliography, Body memory, Seasilver, Mirko Beljanski
Collection: 1980 Books, Books by L. Sprague De Camp, Essay Collections, Science Books
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

The Ragged Edge of Science

The Ragged Edge of Science
Dust-jacket for The Ragged Edge of Science
Author L. Sprague de Camp
Illustrator Don Simpson
Cover artist Don Simpson
Country United States
Language English
Subject Pseudo-science
Publisher Owlswick Press
Publication date
1980
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages x, 244 pp.
ISBN
OCLC 7522462

The Ragged Edge of Science is a science book by L. Sprague de Camp, illustrated by Don Simpson. It was first published by Owlswick Press in 1980.[1][2][3]

The book is a collection of twenty-two articles (two of them book reviews) on various curiosities and wonders exploring the boundaries between science and pseudo-science.[1][4] "The[ir] common thread is [their] skeptical takes on subjects that are often muddled by paranormal and pseudoscientific claims."[5] De Camp viewed such phenomena from a skeptically rational viewpoint, pointing out the fallacies in supernatural and otherwise fantastic explanations. His debunking efforts were an important and characteristic feature of his nonfiction, and the present collection is a notable instance of it.[6]

The book's constituent articles were originally published in a variety of science magazines, science fiction magazines, and other publications from 1950-1976.[1][6][7]

Contents

  • Contents 1
  • Synopsis 2
  • Reception 3
  • Notes 4

Contents

Synopsis

The essays in the book fall into three general categories, dealing with ancient civilizations and certain unscientific theories regarding them, occult-related subjects, and pseudoscience in general. Anecdotes from history and de Camp's travels to some of the locales he writes about pepper the narrative.

The first eight chapters fall into the first category. Discussions of Bronze Age Troy and the ancient Sudanese civilization of Kush counter romantic speculations with a resume of what is known of them from historical sources and archaeological investigations. In contrast, the section on King Arthur, of whom little factual information has been established, puts to rest unverified notions regarding him by tracing the development and elaboration of his legend down through the ages. The chapter on the Maya debunks diffusionist theories seeking the origin of their culture in Old World civilizations rather than from indigenous factors. Later sections about Teotihuacan and the Toltecs serve more as general introductions to these cultures. There is also a brief discussion of the Tour Magne, a Roman ruin in Nîmes, France, and a chapter on myths that discounts them as reliable reportage of prehistoric events.

Chapters in the second category include discussions of memories of previous lives supposedly recovered via hypnosis, the Kabbalah, lives of famous charlatans claiming to have been magicians, such as Cagliostro and Aleister Crowley, the hoax perpetrated by Léo Taxil and others that purported to expose Freemasonry as devil worship, theosophist C. W. Leadbeater, the development of occultist cultism around Mount Shasta in Northern California (demonstrated to have a literary basis), and the origins of the mystic trance, with rational explanations for the visions experienced. A satirical chapter of advice on how to set one's self up as a prophet rounds out the section.

An account of the early history of Fundamentalist movement to prohibit the teaching of evolution in schools leads off the third category. There is also a biography of Populist politician Ignatius Donnelly focusing on his speculations regarding Atlantis and like matters, and then a speculative chapter regarding future languages, essentially a didactic piece on language change with application to science fictional treatments of time-travel. It leads into a discussion of nonscientific claims about the "fourth dimension" in general. This part of the book also includes reviews of Immanuel Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision and Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods?, both of which de Camp discounts.

Reception

Critical reviews of the book were generally positive. Writing in the wake of its release, Tom Easton observed in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact that "[i]f you know L. Sprague de Camp's work at all, you know what to expect ... He's always readable and entertaining, as he sticks his thumbs into gaping holes of fact and logic ... He's full of the straight dope (though he often doesn't go into things as deeply as I would like)." He urged readers to "buy the book."[6] Michael Schuyler, writing for Library Journal, took a more neutral stance, judging only that "[m]ost of these mysteries have been well documented elsewhere, and De Camp [sic] presents no revelations."[8] The book was also reviewed by Darrell Schweitzer in Science Fiction Review v. 10, issue 1 (Spring, 1981), p. 22.[2]

More recently, an exhaustive review from 2007 sums up the book as "a very pleasant and readable collection of essays, an excellent and classical example of skeptical writing and debunkery of various kinds of pseudoscientific and paranormal nonsense." The reviewer notes de Camp's "accessible, down-to-earth style," humor, and story-telling expertise, as well as "somewhat conservative opinions ... which occasionally show in his writing." Its conclusion is "[o]verall I highly recommend this book."[5]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Laughlin, Charlotte; Daniel J. H. Levack (1983). De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography. San Francisco:  
  2. ^ a b The Ragged Edge of Science title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  3. ^  
  4. ^  
  5. ^ a b "BOOK: L. Sprague de Camp, 'The Ragged Edge of Science'", ILL-ADVISED blog, March 10, 2007
  6. ^ a b c Easton, Tom. "The Reference Library" (review), in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, v. 101, no. 10, September 14, 1981, p. 170.
  7. ^ The Ragged Edge of ScienceInternet Speculative Fiction Database entry for first edition of
  8. ^ Schuyler, Michael. "Science and Technology. De Camp. L. Sprague. The Ragged Edge of Science" (review), in Library Journal, v. 105, no. 20, November 15, 1980, p. 2423.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.