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Bogus books

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Feb 2, 2009, 1:57pm Top

By 'bogus books' I don't mean non-existent books mentioned by H. P. Lovecraft but rather purported non-fiction books which seem not to be supported by evidence.

For example, suppose you wish to catalog a book which claims that Chinese troops clashed with Vikings in the early 1400s in what would become Minnesota. The author claims these conclusions are supported by archaeological evidence but archaeologists and historians think the work is malarkey. So does the book go under Archaeology, History or Malarkey? Is the Malarkey category the one named Paranormal?

Then what about books where the consensus shifts? Wegener's publications about continental drift were formerly dismissed as malarkey but they are now accepted as valid science with considerable supporting evidence.

What about books on 'alternative medicine' which are based upon careful clinical studies versus those which rely upon anecdotes?

The general question is how to categorize controversial books -- this seems to require a value judgment about the accuracy of the book on the part of the librarian.

Feb 2, 2009, 5:44pm Top

There are lots of other categories of "malarkey" other than paranormal - alternative history - ufology - hollow earth - lost continents - whatever. For my own library I tag most of them as "forteana" - named after the famous "malarkist" Charles Fort http://www.librarything.com/author/fortcharles&norefer=1.

Yes, you're right, some of those would be hard to place under the current categories.

Feb 2, 2009, 7:57pm Top

How about a (understating) "nonstandard and alternative theories" section under science?

Cold Fusion might also go there.

Feb 2, 2009, 9:33pm Top

In Dewey there's the controversial knowledge category in 001.9. I always liked the term.

Feb 3, 2009, 1:55pm Top

I like "malarkey"! :-) But to be non-controversial it probably should better be something like the term jmgold found.

Feb 3, 2009, 2:04pm Top


"nonstandard and alternative theories" section under science?

I don't like that. It's far too generous. A nonstandard theory in the science section would be one that, while it is a minority belief, isn't actively counterfactual. (Something like MOND, in astrophysics, considered to be an alternative to dark matter -- very few people believe it, but those who do aren't considered nutjob cranks.)

What's wrong with "pseudoscience" for the subset of malarkey that purports to be science?

Feb 3, 2009, 2:11pm Top

#5 GirlFromIpanema: I chose 'malarkey' because someone else used the tag and I found it fit a lot of books I own. I love crackpot/fringe/alternative books. It is great fun playing 'spot the fallacy' -- way better than Sudoku IMHO.

#3 circeus - 'nonstandard and alternative theories' under science would be useful, but there are books that don't fit there, such as political conspiracy theories, books on the history of Freemasonry going back 5000 years, anything about the Priory of Sion based on documents which conveniently went missing, etc.

#4 jmgold. 'Controversial' make sense, unless one is a librarian for a community which insists, for example, that Intelligent Design should be categorized as Science. These decisions become politicized all too easily.

Edited: Feb 3, 2009, 2:15pm Top

#6 lorax: yes, and the section for "nonstandard and alternative theories" would quickly be filled up by all the books on string theory, but "pseudoscience" might be a bit rude for this subject.

Feb 3, 2009, 2:27pm Top

>7 bertilak: : Yes, reading 'malarkey' can be great fun.

I agree (# 6) that lumping the lot as nonstandard and alternative theories under science would be a bad choice. First of all, not all of this is about science in the narrower sense - and that's also the problem with pseudoscience for the stuff as a whole. But second, and perhaps more important, in real science everything gets challenged from time to time so by its nature there are a lot of legitimate alternative theories.

I think we shouldn't try to find a name that would encompass all this stuff though. Putting pseudoscience under science, pseudohistory under history, etc, maybe conspiracy theories under politics, might be the way to proceed.

Feb 3, 2009, 6:29pm Top

What about "makebelieve" ? It is what a lot of this authors try to do: make us belive. It is fiction they claime to be true. Such as Däneken for instance.

Feb 4, 2009, 7:19pm Top


Feb 10, 2009, 5:14pm Top

How about "speculation?"

Feb 10, 2009, 8:43pm Top

I think we really need to place them in the subjects they purport to be, for the most part. They might be bad history or bad science, but they're still doing history and science, just badly. Readers need to decide for themselves.

Editorializing too much is something a classificatory system really shouldn't do.

Feb 12, 2009, 4:50pm Top


I can't speak for history, but by and large this sort of thing isn't actually doing science -- they have some of the appearances of science to the outside observer but are in fact just making stuff up. Something like a book on "intelligent design" is not science no matter how much it may claim to be so, and accepting their own claims of scientific standing is foolish.

Feb 12, 2009, 5:16pm Top

> 14 : I must admit I have never read a book on "intelligent design" - fortunately it's no big deal here in Holland - just some stuff in internet debates. So it's hard for me to say, but isn't it rather "substandard science" than "non-science"?

With all the commotion surrounding this stuff, I can however understand you getting nervous of what might be seen as a sign of approval.

Personally I wouldn't mind having "alternative history" as a subcategory under history. In fact many bookstores already do just that. But I would mind it freely intermingeld with the regular stuff.

Maybe a similar subcategory clearly labeled "pseudoscience" would be acceptable?

Feb 12, 2009, 6:18pm Top

Those kind of books can be called; "NONSENSE"

Feb 12, 2009, 6:31pm Top

Your insulting nonsense. ;-)

I love good nonsense, like in Lewis Carroll or Monty Python.

Feb 12, 2009, 7:02pm Top


I don't disagree with you per se, but a classification system doesn't classify what a work is doing but what it is about. And a pseudoscientific work claiming to "do geology" would still be about geology (which is to say, rocks and layers of the earth and such) even if the claim to do geology was false.

Feb 12, 2009, 8:17pm Top


I don't disagree with you per se, but a classification system doesn't classify what a work is doing but what it is about. And a pseudoscientific work claiming to "do geology" would still be about geology (which is to say, rocks and layers of the earth and such) even if the claim to do geology was false.

That's an interesting point.

I think mixing them in does a tremendous disservice to non-savvy readers, who may not know a priori that a particular book is crap, but it does argue for filing such works near their subject matter.

(Frankly, I don't think it's going to make a difference. The librarians in charge of the OSC have demonstrated a breathtaking indifference to science, so they'll probably just have one tiny shelf with physics, biology, and "intelligent design" all filed in one section. Gotta leave room for Pets and True Crime as top-level headings, after all.)

Feb 13, 2009, 6:24am Top

17: BarkingMatt; Lewis Carroll or Monty Python do make sense, so it can't be "non sense".


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