Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The New Apocrypha - John Sladek

As well as being a writer of satirical works of fiction, John Sladek wrote a number of non-fiction works. His particular interest was the occult and what he terms ‘strange science’ – not as an advocate, but as a debunker.

I read this when it first appeared in paperback thirty years ago and, seeing a second-hand copy in great condition, treated myself to a copy. It makes for interesting reading, although Sladek reins in his sharp wit (mostly) and goes for a sober discussion of his subject.

There are one or two occasions where he is happy to remain undecided, but on the whole he does a clear job of debunking some of the stranger idiocies that have beset mankind. There are also one or two occasions where science (as it will) has revealed more about a subject so that Sladek has been wrong-footed (but not very much). He is always on safer ground when looking at illogical or, in some cases, downright weird beliefs.

He doesn’t let scientists off the hook, either. They, too, are human and just as likely to err as anyone else when it comes to having closed minds and irrationally dismissing anything that runs counter to their own preconceptions.