Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Re-shelving Nonsense Since 2007

If you’ve walked into any large bookstore lately and browsed the “Science” section, you may have been appalled by what passes as science literature these days. In addition to being minuscule (and often sandwiched between the ‘Occult’ and ‘Self-Help’ sections), it is often peppered with ‘mislabeled’ books. These books are the subject of an interesting blog project called Biologists Helping Bookstores. In a nutshell, the aim is to re-shelve religion and philosophy books to the correct part of the store–and out of the science section. Obviously, some people have a lot of time of their hands.

The blogger, Ste, catalogs his endeavors at the local Barnes Ignoble and other local bookstores, complete with pictures and snarky narratives (including everyone’s favorite punchingbag Michael Behe).

It is my mission to correctly re-shelve books to the appropriate section of the bookstore.

For example, “Darwin’s Black Box”, the famous pseudo-science book by the non-evolutionary non-scientist Michael Behe, should not be in the “Evolutionary Biology” section, but something more appropriate, such as “New Age”, “Religion”, “Christianity”, or even “Fiction”. After chuckling a geeky chuckle for a few seconds it is also helpfully relocated – this time next to the far more appropriate Pop! Goes the Witch – A Disinformation Guide to 21st Century Witchcraft. You get the idea.

I call on all readers of this blog to follow my example. Help your local bookstore correctly stock their science section. Spread the word.

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Ahhhhhhhh. Now THATS better.

Come on folks, we gotta give this guy some traffic. He’s fighting the good fight for us all!

Comments

  1. #1 King Rat
    July 28, 2007

    Oh god. After I retired last year, I decided to work at the local Barnes & Noble for a bit. Mostly as a shelver.

    This is annoying. Not for the corporate overlords. For the shelvers. Corporate overlords couldn’t care less. And they are the ones who decide everything about a store, including the location books are to be shelved. What this does is make the shelvers carry them back to the designated place. When a customer comes in requesting an evolution book, what do you think they’ll remember and recommend to the customer? The crappy Behe book. Because that’s the one they’ve seen the most because they’ve had to reshelve it.

  2. #2 Jacob Wintersmith
    July 28, 2007

    Amusing, although I think Behe’s book does fit best in the science section. It is a book about biology, albeit a remarkably bad one. A book’s inclusion in the Science section shouldn’t be viewed as a stamp of scientific approval. After all, booksellers are in the business of giving customers what they want, which is not the same thing as trying to expand knowledge and understanding (alas!).

  3. #3 The Ridger
    July 28, 2007

    As someone who once worked in a bookstore, I can say you’re (a) not making the statement you think you are, because a lot of customer reshelving happens all the time and usually it seems completely random, probably due to people just changing their mind and being too lazy to walk back to where they got it, and (b) you’re making a lot of hard work for part-timers not even making minimum wage who have nothing to say about where books go. The most impact you can hope for is that people will stop going to the bookstores and buy everything on line because the clerks never can find anything in the store…

  4. #4 Shelley
    July 28, 2007

    Ah, well, I honestly didn’t think about it from the plight of the reshelver. Its a joke, a parody by the way. The statement is the website, he’s not *actually* trying to start a movement here.

    Oh well, I thought it was funny.

  5. #5 kemibe
    July 28, 2007

    Behe’s book should be “re-shelved” in the restrooms of these bookstores, right above or even inside the metal or plastic toilet-tissue dispensers.

  6. #6 G.Shelley
    July 28, 2007

    Given the tendency in most bookstores to randomly move all their books around every few months (here in the UK at least), I can’t find any sympathy for them if they have to put in a little extra effort to move things back. A taste of their own medicine if you like

  7. #7 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    July 28, 2007

    I see the blogger makes an excuse for leaving Dawkin’s The God Delusion in the science section. I disagree. While Dawkins is a genuine scientist, that book is primarily about the existence of God, and so rightly belongs in the religion or philosophy section.

  8. #8 Science Avenger
    July 28, 2007

    I’m on it. It’s both a funny idea and potentially productive endeavor. I’ve been moving books to their proper place for years. It only takes one to make a difference for an entire store.

    And yeah, it sucks that sometimes the poor shelf stockers get stuck with the mess. But frankly, if I can prevent just one person from being infected with that pseudoscientific nonsense…

  9. #9 Kagehi
    July 28, 2007

    I think Behe’s book does fit best in the science section.

    Well, since there isn’t any “not even wrong” sections… But seriously, most of the stuff needs to go in sci-fi, fiction or humor. lol Though, it reminds me of a joke in one book where supernatural beings in the story were, at night, reshelving all the stuff on Christianity under Humor. ;)

  10. #10 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    July 30, 2007

    He mentions reshelving a Behe book in the “Religious Fiction” section. Isn’t that redundant?

  11. #11 MikeinAkron, USA
    July 30, 2007

    it amazes me the dichotomy here. As a physician and scientist, the disparaging remarks about Behe and even Dawkins reminds me how frightful human reasoning can be sometimes. I guess no one’s perfect. The fundamental difference between religion and science is that while religion posits unassailable truths, science alleges that no such entity (unassailable truth) exists in the universe–and if it does, it is extremely rare. I’m afraid the vitriol against Dr Behe and re-shelving suggestion re: Dr Dawkins misses the boat. The history of science and scientists is one of deeply devout atheists, skeptics and theists. What’s wrong with that? I’m afraid that some who call themselves scientists have come to judgement prematurely and defined unassailable truths despite the paucity of objective data. For many of sciences “truths” more time, good research and data with real application are in need. This is certainly true in medicine where, despite the LACK of real evidence, many lives are saved that would have been lost even 10 years ago.
    Dawkins writes about God, and Behe attempts to reconcile the incoherence he appreciates simply because scientific discussions without acknowledging the difficulties surround origins are intellectually cowardly. These men have bravely tried to offer some rational template upon which we may have the debate. Neither is less a scientist than the other. Both believe that science is nearly devoid of unassailable truths. Behe simply believes that the idea of a single Creator is not so far fetched (Dawkins disagrees). Dawkins believes invoking a Creator short circuits the scientific process (Behe disagrees). We all love the quest for unassailable truths. Here’s to science AND religion! Never stop asking “why?”

    Cheers!

  12. #12 Blair
    July 31, 2007

    If atheists stuck to just misplacing books, I wouldn’t complain.

    Its when they come for my kids I yell.

  13. #13 An Atheist
    July 31, 2007

    Don’t worry, they’ll come to us once they wise up.

  14. #14 Blair
    July 31, 2007

    Thats fine.

    I just don’t want you to get ahold of them before that.

  15. #15 An Atheist
    July 31, 2007

    Well, it isn’t like we’re going to *eat* them or something. :)

  16. #16 Grady
    August 1, 2007

    Next: ban creationism and ID from bookstores.

    Followed by: religion.

    Remember, the Constitution calls for Elimination of Church from the State.

  17. #17 outeast
    August 10, 2007

    I don’t mind Behe being shelved in the science section (too much) but when 25 per cent of the science books are Deepak Chopra (as in the case in at least one bookshop I know) it’s barftime.

  18. #18 Luna_the_cat
    August 10, 2007

    @MikeinAkron, USA: when someone deliberately distorts and/or simply lies about physical reality and the state of scientific knowledge, in order to serve a non-science goal, to my mind that disqualifies their book from being in the “science” section.

    The problem is not simply that Behe claims that science cannot work without the intervention of the supernatural — which is, incidentally, in direct opposition to how science actually works, since scientific tools only address materialistic causes of material events, which are amenable to testing and disproof — it is also that he supports this argument by misrepresenting what science really is, does, and knows. It goes way beyond getting a few facts here and there wrong, which is an unfortunately common flaw in an awful lot of pop science books. It’s actually a deliberate campaign of deception…to serve a religious end, that of convincing people of the direct intervention of a Creator in past and present biology.

    The GOAL of Behe’s books is not science.

    He does not use actual science to support his arguments — he just pretends to.

    Thus, no way does he get to sit on the science shelf. His books belong with the “new age/philosophy” books, imo. Or fiction.

    If he stuck to dealing with science honestly, I doubt if anyone would have such a beef with him. Mind you, if he dealt with science honestly he wouldn’t be claiming that evolution doesn’t work, anyway.

  19. #19 Syven
    November 17, 2007

    Where should Antonio Damasio fit in the bookshop, because I picked his book up a couple of days ago (and I am not a science person) and I was absolutely hooked by in particular “Descartes Error”. He is supposed to a leader in neuroscience but he has written it so imaginatively that maybe there should be only two parts to a bookstore

    1. ENLIGHTENMENT SECTION

    2. ENDARKENMENT SECTION

    Anyway, I am tip-toeing my way into more science related stuff having spent years in the relative safe harbour of business and technology books.

    I tried to find a section on this blog for your recommended science books but could not find it. No problem, at the end of the day a nose for excellence is what I guess we need to train in ourselves.

    I think out aloud online so this is not a POV or meant to divinely inspiring or scientifically based comment, so my URL simply takes you to acknowledge that I am engaging in exploration that hopefully directs me towards enlightenment rather than offering something that in anyway profound.

    Fabulous blog here, which I have linked to my personal system, ultimately, I may not yet know what constitutes as great science, but I do know that good personal organization is a foundation stone for finding that great science.

    M.

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