Every now and again I see a question that goes along the lines:

I heard this book makes some big claims. I haven't read it. Is there any evidence for their claims?

My gut reaction is to tell them off:

If there is some evidence, you know where to find it. In the book!

The onus of proof is on the author (*). For all you know, the author has accepted that onus, and provided a well-argued, well-referenced scientific theory with experimental evidence. If you aren't willing to look at that evidence (and then, if needed, ask us for help with particular aspects), why should you expect us to?

It is as though you are saying "Some crackpot called Galileo wrote a book suggesting the Earth goes around the Sun. Sounds foolish, and I don't want to read it. Is there any evidence?" Yes, there's good evidence... and it is carefully argued in the book by Gallileo.

I understand that books are expensive. If only there were big government buildings in every city where you could go to borrow a book for free. :-P

After a moment I calm down, and reluctantly acknowledge that, yes, the book mentioned probably is written by a crackpot, and that there may be times where someone else has already read the book and is able to give you a summary to save you the effort.

Nonetheless, I want to ask the community: How should we handle questions where the OP knows about a person's book/web-site but is too lazy/busy to read it themselves?

(*) Well, normally. I'll acknowledge that Skeptics.SE is a weird unworldly place, where the onus of proof often falls on an anonymous volunteer.

  • Unfortunately, the users learn fast - not to read the book themselves, but suddenly - a friend told them, and couldn't remember title and authors name. – user unknown Jul 27 '11 at 2:15

This is fine

"I've heard that it's unexplained how lungs developed in amphibians. For example this book claims it is impossible"

This is not fine

"This book claims pyramids were build by aliens or something, is this a reliable book?"

TL;DR: If a claim is specific, then it's probably fine.

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