Fact or Fiction?

Faculty Picks: 5 Great Books on Pseudo-Science and Pseudo-History: Visiting the Twilight Zone of Science and History — Selected by Choice Reviewer Ronald H. Fritze

In an age of alternate facts, post-truth, and fake news, there has never been a better time to explore the world of pseudo-science and pseudo-history. Yes, the truth is out there, and these books are excellent guides for finding it.

The Cult of Alien Gods: H. P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture, by Jason Colavito. Prometheus Books, 2005.
If you think the phenomenon of the television series Ancient Aliens started with Erik von Daniken, this book reveals its true origin. Rather than a foundation based on history, archaeology, and science, it all began with a classic writer of horror/science fiction stories.

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, by Martin Gardner. 2nd ed., revised and expanded. Dover, 1957.
This classic exposé of pseudo-science first appeared in 1952 as In the Name of Science. Although the book is 60 years old, Dover has kept it in print, and its witty and well-researched commentary remain valuable and entertaining.

fantastic archaeology book cover

Fantastic Archaeology: The Wild Side of North American Prehistory, by Stephen Williams. Pennsylvania, 1991.
The history of the study of American prehistory abounds with many strange theories about American prehistory that were once well accepted but are now the grist for pseudo-historians. It is a great antidote to America Unearthed.

Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology, by Brian Regal. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
A fascinating study of the intersection of science and pseudo-science in the realm of cryptozoology, written by an expert on the history of pseudo-science. It is a lucid and engaging look at the human face of pseudo-science.

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Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, by Michael Shermer. Revised and enlarged ed. Holt, 2002.
As the founding publisher and editor of Skeptic Magazine, Shermer brought years of experience to answering the question posed by the title of this book. It is an authoritative and readable explanation of folly.

About the author:

Ronald H. Fritze (Athens State University, ron.fritze@athens.edu) is a professor of history and religion. He is the author of Legend and Lore of the Americas before 1492: An Encyclopedia of Visitors, Explorers, and Immigrants (ABC-CLIO, 1993), Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science and Pseudo-Religion (Reaktion, 2009), and Egyptomania: A History of Fascination, Obsession and Fantasy (Reaktion, 2016).