Friday, November 9, 2007

New Book--in the works

After co-writing the pro-evolution book The Top 10 Myths about Evolution (Prometheus Books 2007) with Cameron M. Smith, I'm striking out on my own with a new book idea. This book aims to debunk a host of New Age beliefs.

I was quite impressed with all of the atheist books that have come out in the last few years, namely, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, The End of Faith by Sam Harris, Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett, and God: The Failed Hypothesis by Victor Stenger. And once Dawkins' book made it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, it was great good news for infidels, skeptics, and humanists.

The idea of writing an atheist book did cross my mind . . . for about ten seconds. But it occurred to me that Dawkins' success would spawn a host of philosophers--or those who have taken a philosophy of religion class--to write their own atheist books. Soon the market would be flooded with atheist books, and what once seemed like an impossibility--a successful atheist book--would again be an impossibility because there will be too many damn atheist books. And really, how many times can these same arguments be rehashed without getting old? I have the above five atheist books on my bookshelf, but five seems good enough for me, and I imagine it would be good enough for many others.

So I've decided to stay within the realm of belief, faith, and general credulity, but move outside of organized religion, focusing on so-called New Age spiritual beliefs. I've met a number of New Age believers who reject the traditional Christian idea of God, and are even agnostics or atheists, but who embrace all sorts of hocus pocus with no evidence to support their beliefs. I can admire some New Agers who were raised Christian and found the courage to reject those beliefs. But many just replace those old beliefs with new feel-good ones. It's as if some have traded in the Bible for astrology, or heaven and hell for reincarnation, or faith healing for homeopathy, and the resurrection with alien abductions.

Generally, I don't think that New Agers pose the same kind of threat to America that conservative Christians do. But there is a strong anti-science thread that runs through much of the New Age. Curiously, the distortion of scientific terminology to support New Age thinking does not help promote scientific literacy. We see this in talk of quantum consciousness, and energies in other dimensions, or how those who claim to have ESP can't perform their feats when skeptics are present with their negative vibrations, and so on. I see parallels between this form of scientific distortion and the views of so-called scientific creationists. Even though the targets and explanations are different, they're both attempts to make room for superstition with scientific-sounding terminology.

A few books have been written to debunk New Age beliefs, but not many in the last 10 years or so. But these beliefs are still with, as polls show that 34% of Americans believe in UFOs, 34% believe in ghosts, 29% believe in astrology, 25% believe in reincarnation, and 20% believe in alien abductions.

Right now I'm preparing two chapters and a book proposal which I hope to give to my agent by the end of December. At this point one chapter is finished, and I'm beginning work on the second.

It's my hope that many of the same readers who enjoyed the books debunking religion will also enjoy a book debunking New Age hocus pocus. Maybe I'll ask an astrologer if this idea is a good one or not.

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