21 February 2013

Believing Bullshit

We all do it now and then to a certain degree, anyway -- believe things that are demonstrably untrue.

Now there's a book to help us stop doing that: Believing Bullshit by Stephen Law.

The entire book is a delight to read, filled with wit and wisdom on every page. But the part that I liked the best was saved for last: The Tapescrew Letters, a hilarious response to C.S. Lewis' silly set of sanctimonious letters with a similar name (The Screwtape Letters).

There are eight chapters that deal with the most common ways that we deceive ourselves.

  1. Playing the Mystery Card
  2. "But It Fits!" and The Blunderbuss
  3. Going Nuclear
  4. Moving the Semantic Goalposts
  5. "I Just Know!"
  6. Pseudoprofundity
  7. Piling Up the Anecdotes
  8. Pressing Your Buttons
They're all great, but I especially like the section "You Can't Prove A Negative" in Chapter 1, where Dr. Law explains, "If 'you can't prove a negative' means that you can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that certain things don't exist, then the claim is just false."

This is a book that everyone should read. It's time for us all to stop believing bullshit.

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