Species, serpents, spirits, and skulls : science at the margins in the Victorian age /
Sherrie Lynne Lyons.
Albany : State University of New York Press, c2009.
xiv, 245 p. : ill.
1438427972 (hardcover : alk. paper), 9781438427973 (hardcover : alk. paper)
More Details
Albany : State University of New York Press, c2009.
1438427972 (hardcover : alk. paper)
9781438427973 (hardcover : alk. paper)
contents note
Introduction : an age of transition -- Swimming at the edges of scientific respectability : sea serpents, Charles Lyell, and the professionalization of geology -- Franz Gall, Johann Spurzheim, George Combe and phrenology : a science for everyone -- The crisis in faith : William Crookes and spiritualism -- Morals and materialism : Alfred Russel Wallace, spiritualism, and the problem of evolution -- Thatige skepsis : Thomas Huxley and evolutionary theory -- Negotiating the boundaries of science : an ongoing process.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 223-234) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2010-06-01:
Employing Victorian era examples in the areas of paleontology, phrenology, spiritualism, and evolutionary theories, Lyons (Center for Distance Learning, Empire State College, SUNY) examines the underpinnings of what has been and what is currently considered science and marginal science. Lyons utilizes these examples to support her thesis that what is evaluated to be good or poor evidence can shift over time. What ultimately became standard science (e.g., natural selection) as opposed to pseudoscience (e.g., phrenology) resulted from a shift in fact finding, moving from the clerics and the courts to the professional scientist, a class that began to emerge in universities only in the late 19th century. Lyons examines competing philosophies such as natural theology and materialism, catastrophism and uniformitarianism, and monogenism and polygenism. She concludes with case studies in the emerging field of the "folklore of fossils" as well as recent developments in evolutionary psychology, comparing trends in these areas to Victorian era examples. Lyons makes a convincing argument that even though contemporary science is evidence based, it is not and never will be fully isolated or immune from external influences such as religious belief, social policy, or politics. Summing Up: Highly recommended. History and philosophy of science collections serving upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty. K. D. Winward Central College
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, June 2010
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Bowker Data Service Summary
Science permeates nearly every aspect of our lives, and yet, as current debates over intelligent design and alternative health practices indicate, the question of how to distinguish science from pseudoscience remains a difficult one. This book draws on four examples from the 19th century including the sea serpent investigations.
Main Description
Science permeates nearly every aspect of our lives, and yet, as current debates over intelligent design, the causes of global warming, and alternative health practices indicate, the question of how to distinguish science from pseudoscience remains a difficult one. To address this question, Sherrie Lynne Lyons draws on four examples from the nineteenth century—sea serpent investigations, spiritualism, phrenology, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each attracted the interest of prominent scientists as well as the general public, yet three remained at the edges of scientific respectability while the fourth, evolutionary theory, although initially regarded as scientific heresy, ultimately became the new scientific orthodoxy. Taking a serious look at the science behind these examples, Lyons argues that distinguishing between science and pseudoscience, particularly in the midst of discovery, is not as easy as the popular image of science tends to suggest. Two examples of present-day controversies surrounding evolutionary psychology and the meaning of fossils confirm this assertion. She concludes that although the boundaries of what constitutes science are not always clear-cut, the very intimate relationship between science and society, rather than being a hindrance, contributes to the richness and diversity of scientific ideas. Taken together, these entertaining and accessible examples illuminate important issues concerning the theory, practice, and content of science.
Main Description
Explores the distinctions between science and pseudosicence.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Introduction: An Age of Transitionp. 1
Swimming at the Edges of Scientific Respectability: Sea Serpents, Charles Lyell, and the Professionalization of Geologyp. 17
Franz Gall, Johann Spurzheim, George Combe, and Phrenology: A Science for Everyonep. 51
The Crisis in Faith: William Crookes and Spiritualismp. 87
Morals and Materialism: Alfred Russel Wallace, Spiritualism, and the Problem of Evolutionp. 111
Thatige Skepsis: Thomas Huxley and Evolutionary Theoryp. 147
Negotiating the Boundaries of Science: An Ongoing Processp. 171
Notesp. 205
Bibliographyp. 223
Indexp. 235
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem