List of controversial non-fiction books

List of controversial non-fiction books

This is a list of controversial non-fiction books aimed at the general reader which discuss controversial issues, or have been (or were at the time of writing) discussed for other reasons. For controversial fictional books, see list of banned books.

What makes a book controversial will typically be that it allegedly presents reports of facts or scientific evidence, but in a way which circumvents scientific evaluation. Instead of having the book being discussed in scientific fora to clarify pending issues, it is published with the aim of being read directly by the general public, short-circuiting the usual scientific quality control before scientific results are popularized for the general public. This means that discussion will have to take place afterwards, in the media, instead of in closed scientific circles. When the ensuing discussion appears in the media, the controversy becomes apparent. Various means may be used to forward relevant criticism. These can be critical book reviews, debate in scientific journals or popular magazines, or publication of error lists on the internet.

Anthropology

*"Coming of Age in Samoa" by Margaret Mead (1928):In 1983, five years after Mead had died, Derek Freeman published "Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth", in which he challenged all of Mead's major findings. In 1983, the American Anthropological Association passed a motion declaring Freeman's Margaret Mead and Samoa "poorly written, unscientific, irresponsible and misleading." [cite book |last=Nettler |first=Gwynn |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Boundaries of Competence: How Social Studies Make Feeble Science |year=2003 |publisher=Transaction Publishers |location= |isbn=0765801795 |pages=152 ] In 1987, Lowell D. Holmes published a book [ Lowell D. Holmes (1987): Quest for the "real" Samoa. The Mead/Freeman controversy and beyond. 209 pp. Bergin & Garvey Publishers inc.] in which he defends Mead, saying that Freeman exaggerates his points, but also criticizes Mead for exaggerating her points and making factual errors.
*"Darkness in El Dorado" by Patrick Tierney (2000):Accuses James Neel and Napoleon Chagnon, among other things, of exacerbating an epidemic among the Yanomamo people. A panel at the University of Michigan found the "claims are false". [cite press release |title=Statement on e-mail regarding the book "Darkness in El Dorado" |publisher=University of Michigan |date=2000-11-13 |url=http://www.umich.edu/~urel/darkness.html |format=HTML |language= |accessdate=2007-08-07 |quote= ]

Biology

*"" by Jonathan Wells (2000):The book is widely used by creationists to defend the hypothesis of intelligent design. It deals with ten `icons´ of evolution, i.e. examples that are widely used, for instance in textbooks, to illustrate or support Darwinian evolution. An example of a refutation of the claims in the book is here [Massimo Pigliucci. "." (Sinauer, 2002): ISBN 0878936599 page 252-264] .

Mathematics and Computation

*"A New Kind of Science" by Stephen Wolfram (2002):The book has attracted several types of criticism and some critics have labeled the book crankery. [cite web |url=http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/wolfram/ |title=A Rare Blend of Monster Raving Egomania and Utter Batshit Insanity |accessdate=2007-08-28 |format=HTML |work=The Bactra Review |last=Shalizi |first= Cosma Rohilla |date=2005-10-21]

Environmentalism

*"Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson (1962):This book popularized environmentalism by exposing to the public the dangers of chemical pesticides, and accusing the chemical industry of unethical behavior. This led to a subsequent ban of the pesticide DDT; however, some claim that this ban is responsible for a worldwide resurgence in malaria and millions of human deaths.

*"The Population Bomb" by Paul R. Ehrlich (1968):Predicted disaster for humanity due to overpopulation and the "population explosion". Critics have compared Ehrlich to Thomas Malthus for his multiple predictions of famine and economic catastrophe. Traditional conservatives have been especially critical of the ideas of the book: "The Population Bomb" made the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's "50 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century"http://www.mmisi.org/ir/35_01/50worst.pdf] in 2003 and was #11 ("honorable" mention) in Human Events "Ten Most Harmful Books of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries".cite news|url=http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=7591|title=Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries|date=2005-05-31|accessdate=2007-08-28]

*"The Skeptical Environmentalist" by Bjørn Lomborg (2001):In this book, the author presents the conception that there is a "litany" saying that everything in the environment is becoming worse. He postulates that whereas the worry expressed in the "litany" will lead to no improvements, economic growth will solve nearly all problems. The facts in the book have been heavily disputed and criticized; for example, by the review and ensuing discussion in Scientific American, [ [http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00000B96-9517-1CDA-B4A8809EC588EEDF Skepticism toward The Skeptical Environmentalist: Scientific American ] ] by reviews in Science [ [http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/294/5545/1285.pdf Science/AAAS | Sign In ] ] and Nature, [http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/PimmHarvey2001.pdf] and by the production of a counter-book. [ [http://www.ecocouncil.dk/english/ Sceptical Questions and Sustainable Answers by the Danish Ecological Council] ]

*"" by Al Gore (2006):Al Gore was given a Nobel Prize for this film, but the film was also criticized by many global warming skeptics, and there was a decision in a high court in London [ [http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2007/2288.html Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education & Skills [2007 EWHC 2288 (Admin) (10 October 2007) ] ] that some of the points made in the film needed supplementary guidance notes before they could be shown to school children.

*"" by Bjørn Lomborg (2007):The author claims that although man-made global warming is a reality, it is not dangerous, and we should use money on something else rather than use them on carbon cuts. The book was warmly supported by some climate skeptics, but heavily criticized in reviews by The New York Review of Books, [ [http://www.nybooks.com/articles/20676 Can Anyone Stop It? - The New York Review of Books ] ] The Washington Post, [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/06/AR2007090601979.html Is It Hot in Here? - washingtonpost.com ] ] and in Nature. [ [http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2007/09/if-the-uncertai.html Economist's View: "If The Uncertainties Are Not Small, Standard Cost–Benefit Analysis As Applied To The Economics Of Climate Change Becomes Incoherent" ] ]

History

*"Hitler's Willing Executioners" by Daniel Goldhagen (1996):Posits that ordinary Germans not only knew about, but also supported, the Holocaust. The most common general complaints are that his primary hypothesis is simplistic and either unprovable or ill-formed. Raul Hilberg has written that Goldhagen is "totally wrong about everything. Totally wrong. Exceptionally wrong." [cite journal| title =Is There a New Anti-Semitism? A Conversation with Raul Hilberg | journal =Logos: a journal of modern society & culture | volume =6| issue =1-2| pages =| publisher =| date =Winter/Spring 2007| url =http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_6.1-2/hilberg.htm| accessdate =2007-06-03 ]
*"A Moral Reckoning, by Daniel Goldhagen (2003) :An account of what he maintains was the Catholic Church's role in the Holocaust, amassing withering criticism. The book has been criticised, including by prominent Jews, as being a "misuse of the Holocaust to advance [his] anti-Catholic agenda" and as being poor scholarship, including a lack of any primary sources and being riddled with factual errors. [Dalin, David G., The Weekly Standard, February 10 2003.] [Bottum, J. [http://www.theweeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/806rjxpb.asp?pg=1 The Usefulness of Daniel Goldhagen] The Weekly Standard 23 October 2002 ] [Fisher, Eugene J. [http://www.ethical-perspectives.be/page.php?LAN=E&FILE=ep_book&SID=233&ID=0 Review of A Moral Reckoning] Ethical Perspectives, Journal of the European Ethics Network] Because of these criticisms and because he says the recommendations of the book would mean the end of the Church as it has been for two millennia, William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has labeled Goldhagen an "anti-Catholic bigot". [ [http://www.catholicleague.org/annualreport.php?year=2002&id=71 2002 Report on Anti-Catholicism, Executive Summary] Catholic League]
*"Hitler's Pope" by John Cornwell (1999):Examined the actions of Pope Pius XII during the Nazi era. Ken Woodward, speaking to "Newsweek", stated that "Hitler's Pope" has "errors of fact and ignorance of context [that] appear on almost every page." [Kenneth L. Woodward, "Newsweek", September 27, 1999.] More recently, Cornwell recanted, acknowledging that he had erred in ascribing evil motives to Pius when writing "Hitler's Pope", and said he now found it "impossible to judge" the wartime pontiff's motives. [John Cornwell, "The Pontiff in Winter" (2004), p. 193]
*"The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" (1982) by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. :Purports that there is a secret society know as the Priory of Sion that protects the Merovingian dynasty because they may be the literal descendants of the historical Jesus and his alleged wife, Mary Magdalene. The thesis has been debunked when it was demonstrated to have been based on a hoax by a French con man named Pierre Plantard.

ociology

* "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" (1948) and "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" (1953) by Alfred Kinsey et al.:Controversial with conservatives as promoting degeneracy. #3 on Intercollegiate Studies Institute's "55 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century" in 2003 and was #4 in Human Events "Ten Most Harmful Books of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries" . There are academic criticisms that pertain to sample selection and sample bias; [Cite journal | author = David Leonhardt | title = John Tukey, 85, Statistician; Coined the Word 'Software' | journal = The New York Times | date=2000-07-28|accessdate=]

*"The Bell Curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life" (1994) by Richard J. Herrnstein & Charles Murray:The book investigates the social consequences of purported differences in heritable intelligence between different groups of people. It raised so much controversy that the American Psychological Association formed a task force to elucidate which postulates in the book could be verified [ [http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/apa96.shtml Human Intelligence: The APA 1996 Intelligence Task Force Report ] ] .

References


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