“When I was a freshman at the University of Chicago in 1932,” Martin Gardner writes in Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?, “I intended to become a physicist. For better or worse, I got sidetracked into philosophy.” He soon became a writer instead, but his seventy or so books have all been informed by the sound understanding of science, mathematics, and philosophy that one could acquire at a good university in that distant era. Those disciplines have given him a firm footing for the center of his life’s work, the exposure of fraud in charlatans pretending to be spiritualists, religious freaks posing as scientists, and scientists thinking they are philosophers.

The title essay in this, his most recent collection of occasional pieces, deals with an example of the last of these types. The philosopher C. S. Peirce once said that unfortunately ...


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