Friday, August 04, 2017

Man Against Myth by Barrows Dunham (1947)

On my groaning bookcases devoted to pseudoscience, urban legends and folklore in general, a battered first-edition hardcover, without dust jacket, has sat for years, since I blindly retrieved it from a library giveaway table: Man Against Myth by Barrows Dunham (Boston: Little, Brown, 1947).

I could use a higher-res cover image.
I finally plucked it off the shelf, at random, and read it. Dunham devotes a chapter apiece to 10 common beliefs that he argues are not only erroneous, but active obstacles to social progress. After I read the book, I learned the author became a cause celebre a few years later, when he refused to testify before the Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was fired by Temple University, where he had been on faculty, and prosecuted for contempt of Congress; though acquitted, he did not teach again for many years. 

Here are Dunham’s chapter titles, listing the beliefs he seeks to rebut:
1. That you can’t change human nature.
2. That the rich are fit and the poor unfit.
3. That there are superior and inferior races.
4. That there are two sides to every question.
5. That thinking makes it so.
6. That you cannot mix art and politics.
7. That you have to look out for yourself.
8. That all problems are merely verbal.
9. That words will never hurt me.
10. That you cannot be [both] free and safe.

(Originally posted on Facebook, Aug. 4, 2017. Bud Schultz's 2012 photo of Dunham is here.)

No comments: