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This is a list of controversial non-fiction books which may be of interest to psychologists which discuss controversial issues, or are (or were at the time of writing) controversial for other reasons. For controversial fictional books, see list of banned books.
- This list is alphabetical by topic, and books should be ordered by publication date within topics
Criteria for inclusion:
- This list is intended to be selective, not exhaustive.
- The standard for books written in the last 40 years is necessarily weaker than that for older books, as there is no way of knowing whether these books will be as highly regarded (or reviled) in the decades to come. Their topical nature makes them important, and so they should be included here.
- verifiable references for the existence and size of the controversy must be provided
- 1928: Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead
- 1997: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
- 2000: Darkness in El Dorado by Patrick Tierney
Artificial intelligence and the nature of consciousness
- 1976: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
- 1986: The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky
- 1990: The Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose
- 1991: Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett
- 2000: The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil
- 1996: The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
- Hirsch proposed that Romanticized, anti-knowledge theories of education prevalent in America are not only the cause of America's lackluster educational performance, but were also a cause of widening inequalities in class and race. Hirsch portrays the focus of American educational theory as one which attempts to give students intellectual tools such as "critical thinking skills", but which denigrate teaching any actual content, labeling it "mere rote learning". Hirsch states that it is this attitude which has failed to develop knowledgeable students. The book was answered by those supporting the status quo, including The Schools Our Children Deserve by Alfie Kohn and The Schools We Deserve by Diane Ravitch.
Darwin put forth a theory of natural selection, which contradicted the doctrine of "created kinds" which was derived from a literal reading of the Book of Genesis.
Morgan's Aquatic ape hypothesis challenges the theory that early humans evolved on the savannah, and argues that several human characteristics which are uncommon to mammals can be better explained by a semi-aquatic environment. The book is popular among feminists because it emphasizes the role of reproductive traits in human evolution.
- 1976: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
- 1995: Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett
- 1996: Darwin's Black Box by Michael J. Behe
- 2000: Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells
- 1970: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
- 1954: Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham
- 1957: The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
- 1964: Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan
- 1967: The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore
- 1977: Mass-Mediated Culture by Michael R. Real
- 1985: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman
- 1988: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman
- 1998: Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud by Arun Shourie
Philosophy of science
Popper refuted the classical observationalist-inductivist account of science, and put forth falsifiability as a criterion of demarcation for proper scientific theories.
Kuhn reformulated the conception of scientific progress, resisting the formalization of a "scientific method", arguing instead that scientific theories are accepted and rejected based on their explanatory power within their historical context. He coined the term "paradigm shift" to describe this process. Postmodernists interpret the book as undermining the scientific establishment, but Kuhn himself was a firm believer in scientific progress.
Feyerabend advocated theoretical anarchism, arguing that many instances of scientific progress have violated established criterion for "good science". Falsificationism and consistency he claims, as well as any methodology, will limit science, and thus "anything goes" is the best ideology.
Race and intelligence
- 1981/1996: The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould
- 1994: The Bell Curve by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray
- 2002: IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen
- 1948: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey
- 1953: Sexual Behavior in the Human Female by Alfred Kinsey
- 1956: The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills
- 1975: Sociobiology: The New Synthesis by E. O. Wilson
- 2002: Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex by Judith Levine
- List of controversial books
- List of controversial issues
- List of banned books