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   Abominable Science
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Nov 2013

The amazing world of pseudoscience…

Throughout recorded history, humans have widened their choices by focussing on things that either don't exist or exist only in imagination. Isn't the opposite of everything more interesting? No wonder, paranormal persists, myths fascinate and pseudoscience captivates. Even if none of these were proven to be scientifically true, there are people who reserve the right to believe in them. For them, tales of mythical beasts like the Yeti, the Bigfoot and the Sea Serpent are part of their collective experience. Called cryptids, the pseudoscience of cryptozoology has been put through rigorous scientific enquiry by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prethero in their defining work on the subject: Abominable Science.

Despite being proven false, many people continue to get attracted to the idea of imaginary creatures. And, the cryptological impulse is not new either. However, the question that begs attention is: Why do people believe in monsters and why should it matter if they do? It has been argued that such beliefs can serve a function in the human psyche, allowing people a sense of the mysterious and the magical and an escape from mundane reality. Will it not be terrible for a child, and even for an adult, to discover that Santa Claus does not exist?

No wonder, dilution of myths from collective conscience has often been resented. Not without reason because myths are at the core of most cultures, which widen instead of restricting human choice. If nothing, the mystical creatures can help search new meanings and fresh perspectives on concurrent developments. That is what producer Ben Holden intends to explore in the remake of 1957 cult classic The Abominable Snowman. In the remake, the Yeti will turn out to be an intelligent being lying low until it reclaims its habitat (mountains) from invading humankind. On the other extreme, electronic media is hungry to fill airtime with pseudoscientific stories!

This and more, Abominable Science has something for every reader. Not only is it well argued and suitably referenced, the book is informative, educational as well as entertaining. Perhaps, it is the first comprehensive study that views cryptids from diverse perspectives.

Abominable Science
by Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero
Columbia University Press, USA
Extent: 411, Price: $29.95


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
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Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
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