The Roving Mind by Isaac Asimov

preface by Paul Kurtz

With tributes by Arthur C. Clarke, L. Sprague de Camp, Harlan Ellison, Kendrick Frazier, Martin Gardner, Donald Goldsmith, Stephen Jay Gould, E. C. Krupp, Frederik Pohl, and Carl Sagan.

Isaac Asimov's death on April 6, 1992, was a great loss to the world of literary science and freethought. The prolific author's vision is unmatched today, and his pointed honesty shines through in The Roving Mind, now reissued in this special tribute edition.

This collection of essays is wide-ranging, reflecting Asimov's extraordinary skill in disseminating knowledge from across the spectrum of human thought. Some of the areas explored in this volume of 62 essays include creationism, pseudoscience, censorship, population, philosophy of science, transportation, computers and corporations of the future, and astronomy. His predictions about cloning which has only recently become the topic of public debate the theory of "technophobia," and other scientific developments are astounding. In a lighter tone, Asimov includes several personal stories from his life including thoughts on his style of writing and memories of family in younger days.

How can our society differentiate between real science and pseudoscience? What technological wonders lie before us in the next few decades? Is the theory of space migration a wild fantasy or a workable blueprint for moving into the "final frontier"? Is it wise for us to try to contact advanced civilizations? What is the rationale for investing so much time, energy, and money in the space program? These are just a few of the questions Asimov ponders in this delightful book.

Included are thoughtful and touching tributes from colleagues and friends who discuss Asimov's science fiction, the inspiration he gave to other writers, the times they shared together, as well as Asimov's lasting impact on the science community and the world.

The late Isaac Asimov authored more than 250 books in virtually every field of knowledge, with more than 120 on the sciences. For Prometheus, he authored The Tyrannosaurus Prescription and Past, Present and Future.

from the Carl Sagan mailing list:
I am reading an absolutely wonderful book. It is called The Roving Mind by Isaac Asimov. It was written in 1983 and dedicated to
CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation for Claims of the Paranormal, for which Carl Sagan was a Fellow and active supporter). Here is a quote from the Foreward (re-release) by Paul Kurtz:

"Asimov died on April 6, 1992. The important role that he played in interpreting science and defending skepticism is clearly felt today. For the present period is one in which science and technology are increasingly under attack by the purveyors of antiscientific attitudes, and there is a vast confusion in the public mind between science and pseudoscience. Moreover, today the borderlines between science fiction and reality are increasingly blurred by a media onslaught in which pure nonsence parading as science undermines critical thinking and scientific rationality.

It is for this reason that Prometheus Books has decided to reissue The Roving Mind. In this remarkable collection of sixty two essays Asimov allows his imagination to roam freely, demonstrating his inquisitive and creative mind. In them he discusses a wide range of topics, such as creationism and the assault on evolutionism in the schools, censorship, extraterrestrial life and UFOs, technophobia, and antiscience. There are also perceptive essays on understanding the cosmos, Pluto, Jupiter, relativity theory, black holes, and hyperspace, as well as essays on futurism and a defense of cloning."

Sound familiar? When I first started reading Carl Sagan's books last year, I dreaded finishing them: who would I read next? Who could come close to Sagan's beautiful, poetic and clear explanations of the Cosmos? Well, I forgot Asimov! That other great 20th Century popularizer of science, whom, by application of the "Asimovian Law of Composition", wrote something like 500 books in his lifetime...

Sorry if this is sounding like a plug, I really don't own any Prometheus Books stock, and I don't mean to divert attention from Carl Sagan, but I would like to recommend this book because I think it's right up there with the Sagan Classics and also a good intro to Asimov's (similar) ideas.


P.S. My favorite Carl Sagan quote: "Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage without which we risk becoming a nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who comes along." (1987)