As a historian, Michael D Gordin's job is to record and assess facts, as obscure or volatile as they have remained over the years. Hence, The Pseudoscience Wars is more a chronicle of one of the most controversial events in scientific history than a presentation of pseudoscience itself.
Gordin's examination zeroes in on a thesis presented by the scholar Immanuel Velikovsky in 1950, which was based on his theory of a comet striking Earth around 1500 BC, causing an array of biblical disasters before settling in orbit as the planet Venus. The idea not only earned Velikovsky a comfortable number of followers, but also an army of staunch critics who insisted that his deviance from orthodox investigation methods was a poor mimicry of established scientific procedures. As a result, Velikovsky's "crackpot" hypotheses were relegated to the fringes of modern science and often proclaimed "pseudoscience", much to his dismay.
This loose definition of pseudoscience bookends the introduction and conclusion of Gordin's book, with the question of its possibilities forming the core. Despite having to compress a complex subject into a 200-word discussion, The Pseudoscience Wars manages to underscore the right points.