Science Tales: Lies, Hoaxes, and Scams

Darryl Cunningham previously wrote Psychiatric Tales, stories of his time working with mental patients. Now, he turns his graphic journalism to bigger topics.

As in his previous book, the chapters take distinct points of view. These are essays, meant to convince, not just reporting. Topics covered include current hot buttons — climate change, evolution, denial of the facts discovered by the scientific method — as well as older areas of debate, including chiropractic, shock therapy, and whether people went to the moon. The subtitle, “Lies, Hoaxes, and Scams”, indicates Cunningham’s take.

I’m not sure his dogged bluntness will convince anyone on the “wrong” side of these topics. The erroneous beliefs are presented in the same direct, abbreviated style as the statements that disprove them. Someone already invested in the idea that there’s a giant conspiracy to fake the moon landing, for example, isn’t going to be convinced by a few “not true”s. However, for others, it’s welcome to have so much information summed up in such efficient chapters.

The most “balanced” section (and Cunningham takes on the idea of fake media balance in the final chapter) is the first, the one about electroconvulsive therapy, in which Cunningham presents pro and con before suggesting we move forward in a different way. The most famous chapter is probably “The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield”, a damning indictment of the greedy physician who manufactured the perceived connection between vaccines and autism. (You may have previously read it online.)

Cunningham’s style is, like his presentation, blunt and straightforward. Each page is six panels, with the vast majority of the panels consisting of the information conveyed in top captions while a small illustration reinforces the idea, often with a blocky nearly-stick figure. It’s not going to win any art prizes, but it’s a great example of how almost anyone can make comics and how effective they are in gathering attention. It’s easy to read and entertaining to do so, especially if you are tired of the general anti-science attitudes prevalent today. I appreciated the emphasis on the scientific method and reliance on facts determined through experiment.

Science Tales is currently published in the UK. Plans are for Abrams to bring out a US edition next March with an added chapter on gas fracking.

6 Responses to “Science Tales: Lies, Hoaxes, and Scams”

  1. Argo Plummer Says:

    Thanks for covering this. I had heard of Cunningham’s first book and filed it away as a “I would like to read that” and never thought about it again. After reading this entry, I immediately checked my local library system and they have both–one at a local branch and one at a small college about an hour away. I requested holds on both of them and will let you know what I thought of them once I have read them.

    As always, thanks for helping me expand my horizons!

  2. Johanna Says:

    Oh, good, glad you could find them, and hope you enjoy them!

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