Respectful Insolence

Date: June 4, 2007, 2 PM CDST
Place: University of Chicago’s bookstore

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Depressing. At what is supposed to be a bastion of science, we find Michael Behe’s latest tripe on the same bookshelves as Stephen Jay Gould’s books (see the shelf below). On the other hand, Creatures of Accident looks potentially interesting.

Still, I’m disappointed that this book isn’t in the philosophy or religion section–where it belongs.

Comments

  1. #1 Paul Schofield
    June 7, 2007

    I was in my local Borders yesterday, as is my habit, when I noticed a rather strange issue.

    Behe (Black Box) was included in the life sciences section, well inside the science section of the shop (my first year physics textbook is found on the connected shelf). Not only does The God Delusion also fit into the same section (included with all of Dawkins other books), but it is also prominently displayed at the front end of the pop-sci/science section. You can’t enter the section without walking past it.

    However, responses to the book, such as The Dawkins Delusion, and similar books written in a pro-religion voice, are included in the Religion section, most under the specific Christianity label, next to the bibles. Not one atheist book (eg, Harris or Hitchens) is found in that section, under any label.

    Is it just me, or is there something very wrong about that?

  2. #2 Alan Kellogg
    June 7, 2007

    Shouldn’t Behe etc. be put in the delerious delusions section?

  3. #3 factician
    June 7, 2007

    Is it any worse than Hulda Clark’s book being in the cancer section? See link:

    http://conspiracyfactory.blogspot.com/2007/02/on-quacks-and-cancer.html

  4. #4 Man Called True
    June 7, 2007

    Three moments of depression for me:

    1. Seeing one of those “Politically Incorrect Guides” (the ones financed by the Discovery Institute and the like) on one of the special display tables in the Mall of America Barnes & Noble. In this case, it was the guide to global warming… and of course, its cover proudly trumpeted several straw men arguments against its existence.

    2. Finding Jonathan “Moonie” Welles’s “Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design” on the shelves in the local library, right next to one of my favorite books on the subject of evolution (namely “Darwin’s Ghost”).

    3. NOT finding Welles’s book on the shelves of the library, meaning that someone had actually checked it out.

  5. #5 Brian Thompson
    June 7, 2007

    I was in my local Borders yesterday, as is my habit, when I noticed a rather strange issue.

    Behe (Black Box) was included in the life sciences section, well inside the science section of the shop (my first year physics textbook is found on the connected shelf). Not only does The God Delusion also fit into the same section (included with all of Dawkins other books), but it is also prominently displayed at the front end of the pop-sci/science section. You can’t enter the section without walking past it.

    However, responses to the book, such as The Dawkins Delusion, and similar books written in a pro-religion voice, are included in the Religion section, most under the specific Christianity label, next to the bibles. Not one atheist book (eg, Harris or Hitchens) is found in that section, under any label.

    Is it just me, or is there something very wrong about that?

    As someone who was recently (<2 months ago) employed at Borders, I think I can answer that question for you.

    First, endcaps do not necessarily reflect what is WITHIN the section of books. Specifically, since January, Borders has been stressing cross-merchandising endcaps to focus on themes.

    The real test of where a book should be shelved is by looking at the barcode sticker, or looking in the computer. The God Delusion, The End of Faith, etc. are all shelved in Relgion – Atheism (I believe the shelf number is I2 for most stores). If your store in question doesn’t have more than 3-6 atheism books, you’ll find them shelved in Relgion – General Religion (I1).

    This situation is actually BETTER than the Barnes & Noble situation, where The End of Faith is shelved under Current Events/Affairs.

  6. #6 Aaron Boyden
    June 7, 2007

    Hey! No dumping stuff in the philosophy section just because it’s an embarrassment to your field. Maybe if it’s one of those bookstores with a “philosophy/spirituality” or a “philosophy/new age/mysticism” section, but a university bookstore can be expected to have a philosophy section which actually contains philosophy, and Behe’s book would not be welcome.

  7. #7 Bronze Dog
    June 7, 2007

    Oh, Aaron, you just reminded me of one painful anecdote my brother related when he was trying to find the philosophy section of a bookstore. Her first question was “why are you looking for philosophy books?” The following questions didn’t get any better as she tried to steer him towards the newage section.

    Somewhere, there’s a blond joke that can’t get started without her.

  8. #8 PZ Myers
    June 7, 2007

    Hey! Hey now! It’s my job here to make vicious jabs at religion, and saying that that load of tripe is religious is grossly unfair to religion.

    Oh, and I thought Creatures of Accident was terrible. Get any other book by Wallace Arthur — he’s one I always get as soon as he publishes anything — but that particular book was a huge disappointment.

  9. #9 K Too
    June 7, 2007

    The “Health” sections at Borders AND B&N are full of sensationalist, anti-science, anti-health nonsense, even though there’s usually a separate section for “Alternative Medicine.” Under AIDS, I found Christine Maggiore’s ignorant rant, Celia Farber’s collection of recycled, factually inaccurate articles, and FOUR copies of Rebecca Culshaw’s compendium of outright lies.

    Why do these chains insist on carrying these books at all, much less placing them in an inappropriate section and prominently displaying them? I would accuse them of irresponsible greed, not caring about lies or health issues as long as they get their profit, but these books aren’t even selling well.

    I don’t get it. My friends who work at B&N, and who are just as annoyed by this as I am, don’t get it. My attempts to contact local bookstore management and corporate HQ have failed. I conclude that higher-ups at these chains assume this deluded postmodernist attitude that there are many valid, different truths and all presentations of information are equal. Behe’s views on evolution are just as valuable as those of Darwin or Dawkins. I could write a screed on auto repair, even though I’ve never so much as changed my car’s oil, that should have just as much weight as a manual from the manufacturer, or a volume from the Car Talk guys.

    What the hell ever happened to standards?

  10. #10 Orac
    June 7, 2007

    PZ,

    Thanks for the warning on Creatures of Accident. I almost bought i. The only reason I didn’t is that I didn’t want to add to the amount of stuff that I had to bring home with me.

    In fact, I had been thinking of ordering it from Amazon.com this weekend.

    By the way, if you want to have some fun, you might want to look at Vox Day’s latest idiocy. ;-)

  11. #11 Warren
    June 7, 2007

    Still, I’m disappointed that this book isn’t in the philosophy or religion section–where it belongs.

    Fantasy. Right next to the Tolkein and Rowling. (Hell, it’s nearly absurd enough to rate alongside Pratchett, the difference being that Behe is apparently stone-cold serious.)

  12. #12 MartinM
    June 7, 2007

    Fantasy. Right next to the Tolkein and Rowling.

    Last time I was in the US, I noticed some creationist books in the (depressingly small) science section in the local Barnes & Noble, and found the perfect place to put them; religious fiction.

  13. #13 fusilier
    June 7, 2007

    Has anyone thought about moving them to the “erotica” section?

    Nobody deliberately looking will go to that section – or if they did, they wouldn’t admit it. ;^)

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  14. #14 Amy Alkon
    June 7, 2007

    On a very depressing note, I thought of you this past week, Orac, when I was at the Human Behavior & Evolution Society conference in Williamsburg, VA, and I spoke to a British researcher (who uses data in her work), and actually believes in homeopathy and some other crapthink I can’t recall now. I directed her to your site. Unfortunately, I suspect she’s much too attached to her crapthink to be willing to question it.

  15. #15 Nat
    June 7, 2007

    Poor Michael E Benton. Damned by alphabetical association.

  16. #16 Saint Gasoline
    June 7, 2007

    The problem with your solution is that if this is considered philosophy, it’s really bad philosophy…and if this is considered religion, then it’s really bad religion, like scientology.

    I say put it in the science fiction section. That’s exactly what it is. Fictional science.

  17. #17 Misopogon
    June 8, 2007

    Well, that University of Chicago bookstore doesn’t have much to do with the University. It’s just a licensed B&N. If you want a taste of the real U of C, head over to the Seminary Co-op on University. Despite the location of the store in a seminary, I can guarantee you that you will find no Behe.

  18. #18 Dunc
    June 8, 2007

    Why do these chains insist on carrying these books at all, much less placing them in an inappropriate section and prominently displaying them?

    Because they sell. Were you under the misapprehension that Borders is an educational establishment? They’d stick The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the History section if they thought they could make a buck on it.

  19. #19 Luna_the_cat
    June 8, 2007

    Seconded.

    K Too: bookstores are profit-making businesses. They are not now, nor were they ever, concerned with factual accuracy in the contents of what they sell; they are simply concerned with having things which sell, and they aren’t usually concerned with “selling to whom” (except in so far as they wish to target the demographics with the most spending money), or why. Generally the only restrictions on what they sell are that they don’t want to sell anything which will result in them being (a) raided by the FBI, or (b) attacked by mobs of angry parents — again, though, this just goes back to costs, really.

    Otherwise, why would anyone ever stock Ann Coulter’s books?

  20. #20 Martin Wagner
    June 10, 2007

    My local Barnes has had Of Pandas and People in the science section. I keep moving it over to the religious fiction section every time I see it there.

  21. #21 K Too
    June 10, 2007

    Dunc and Luna,

    The books I mentioned, these specific books on HIV denialism, DON’T sell. They don’t sell at all. Perhaps a couple of thousand copies worldwide, but that’s it, most of them bought by the author or the author’s mom or mentor online. So why do the bookstores–businesses–insist on carrying them and wasting space in the “Health” section?

    In contrast, there are plenty of people who DO buy Ann Coulter for whatever reason, as Luna notes.

  22. #22 Monado
    June 28, 2007

    I say to help the bookstore staff out and move Behe, et al., to the fiction section. I frequently move bible stories at the thrift store to the children’s fiction section.