Since we came up with a pretty good “Best Science Books of All Time” list, it’s only fair that we contemplate the worst science books, too. John Horgan has already gotten started. His list isn’t a bad beginning, although I would definitely remove The Tipping Point and The Elegant Universe. In their place I would substitute two canonical examples of bad evolutionary psychology: A Natural History of Rape and The Mating Mind. The Emperor’s New Mind, Roger Penrose’s awkward fusion of quantum physics with the neuroscience of consciousness, is another worthy nominee.
However, I heartily second Horgan’s criticisms of Listening to Prozac, The God Gene, The Tao of Physics, The Age of Spiritual Machines and Consilience.
It’s worth asking what makes a bad science book. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not enough to just be blatantly wrong. No, the worst science books are persuasively wrong: their erorrs are seductive and influential. With that criteria in mind, let’s keep this list going.