You are responsible for buying or borrowing these four books:
DISCLAIMER: Many of these books reveal an undeniable bias on the instructor's part. You are encouraged to bring/use any source to colloquium for discussion!
Finally, for those who feel they need some guidance and want to choose a new religion, I've included the only slightly blasphemous tongue-in-cheek book:
James Randi is probably the most famous skeptic (certainly one of the most well-published) and a winner of a Macarthur Genius Grant. He is a frequent contributor to Skeptical Inquirer magazine and was a cofounder of the magazine's parent organization, CSICOP.
Robert Ehrlich's books make good reading and show the careful, deliberate thought process of science; they objectively evaluate possible sources of bias and implications of some controversial scientific claims. Our course's use of "flakiness" points comes from his work.
Robert Park is an emeritus professor of physics here at Maryland and was a founder of the Washington branch of the APS, keeping his finger on the pulse of physics and politics. He still keeps up a great newsfeed at What's New and has been a guest lecturer in our class.
Martin Gardner was the editor for the "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American from 1956-1981 and was a prolific author of books on skepticism and books on games. He died last year.
Carl Sagan needs no introduction (I hope?) to you. Ann Druyan was his wife. He is often credited with the statement, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," though some have pointed out he was preceded by mathematician Laplace (1749-1827) who wrote (presumably in his native French), "The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness." Admittedly, the latter is not as catchy in our ADHD sound-bite driven world. He died in 1996.
Robert Carroll keeps track of loads of useful pseudoscience and related topics (take heed!).
And, with the risk of opening quite a can of worms, the "Science and Religion" books are available for those adventurous or curious enough to challenge that apparent dichotomy (again, I warn you that there my bias is reflected in the book choices - please suggest or bring any books you'd like to that defend specific religions or theosophy). There is a suddenly large growing movement in America (about 60-100 years later than a similar one in Europe) to start examining why we are so addicted to religion. This movement specifically correlates the role religion plays in proselytizing, generating and supporting continuation of war. Whether the correlation is a fallacy or not, this connection is presented as playing a large role in America's current foreign policy (or at least its overt justifications) and deserves a close look by anyone claiming to be an intellectual. Such as you.
I have also included a copy of a New York Times Magazine article from
August 19, 2007, "The Politics of God" by Mark Lilla, a professor of
humanities at Columbia University. He points out how unique Western
secularism is historically, how perhaps we should not consider it
inevitable for humans to separate Church and State
and how secularism is under attack
from the outside (Islamist extremism) and the inside (Christian