Tag Archives: skepticism

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre: I adore books about modern myths and this is among the best. Though the title is fairly generic, the science in question here is largely related to health: medicine, disease, and diet, and the media’s role in the spread of misinformation. I was surprised both by the debunking of myths I’d long thought to be true, as well as those myths and charlatans I’d never even heard of. As an American, reading about the British perspective was extra fascinating. Goldacre also has quite an amusing way with words, which helped dilute some of the anger a bit. Exasperation can be exhausting, but when tempered with humor it’s much more enjoyable. Sure, there are some tales, like the AIDS denial in South Africa, that are simply horrifying, but by and large it’s more eye-opening than depressing. Definitely recommended to anyone who’s ever had any interest in those big “such-and-such causes/cures cancer” tales constantly blasted over the airwaves.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer

Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer: I think, perhaps, that this book was not quite what I thought it was going to be. What I wanted – and this is no fault of the author’s – was a book debunking specific “weird things”. While I got a decent amount of that in the (fascinating) chapter on Holocaust deniers, by and large it was more about the psychological and emotional reasons people believe things that don’t make any sense. Which is fine, as far as that goes, but it seemed to keep returning to the same few theories each time. I guess you could say he was making his case with additional evidence, but I got a sort of “okay, I got it, move on” feeling about the whole thing. In short, it’s an interesting read but probably something you’d more enjoy reading a chapter here and there rather than straight through.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan

The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan: Have you ever read something that filled you with such furvor that you wanted to write your own thoughts along those same lines, but whenever you tried you found you did nothing but repeat the original article?

That’s been me all over the place with The Demon-Haunted World. I want to ramble about the wonder of science, the importance of skepticism, the fact that school all but completely robbed me of any desire to learn, the dangers of pseudoscience, the intrinsic value of basic research even if it doesn’t lead to a specific application right away…but Sagan says it all, and he says it better than I ever could. This is one of those amazing books that made me think long and hard about a lot of things. It made me want to know more about the universe, to revisit old assumptions and condescensions, to step back a moment and drink it all in.

Sagan speaks as one with a giddy love for the scientific process, one whose healthy skepticism does not make him stodgy or closed to new ideas. Much of the first half of the book is spent more or less on aliens – not only explanations for much of what is attributed to extraterrestrial activity, but why people assume aliens at all. He does grump a little about the dumbing-down of American entertainment and its lack of accurate science, but coming from someone who prizes knowledge so highly, I can understand his disappointment at the popularity of shows like “Beavis & Butthead” and “Dumb & Dumber.” Likewise his unhappiness with dwindling popular and government support of science research and education.

This book is absolutely astounding. It’s one of the few that I recommend to anyone, even (and perhaps especially) if it challenges some of your closely held viewpoints. It did mine.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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