Monday, October 22, 2018

The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe by Dr. Steven Novella et al

In this era of “fake news,” misleading information and biased reporting, how can you know what to believe? Novella says there is a process that one can develop to evaluate claims to truth. Science is part of that process, as is logic and philosophy.

Novella helps readers understand how thinking skills are developed. He looks at tons of examples of misleading or just plain false information and how it is evaluated. I have to admit that I had been duped in a couple of the examples he gives, such as the truth about GMO. Perhaps the evidence given is only one sided. Perhaps unsubstantiated claims are presented as scientifically true. As he says in the fake news chapter, “The best solution for all of us is to apply a high degree of critical thinking and skepticism to any issue.” (383)

The only part of the book I didn't like dealt with religion. Novella does not believe in the supernatural so debunks anything related to Christianity.

He is not shy at naming shysters and people making claims that science has long ago proven untrue. One that comes to mind is turmeric. What about your aunt who is convinced turmeric is a wonder drug? Convincing someone of the truth is difficult when deep emotions are involved. He writes, “...facts [are] simply not enough to change people's minds.” (7)

Yes, this is a big book of some 500 pages. It took me all of the three weeks my library offers to read it. But I am glad I did. I now have a better understanding of how to determine the truth of claims. I recommend the book.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Dr. Steven Novella is a recognized science education. He is an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine. He authors the award-winning NeuroLogica blog and is senior editor of Science-Based Medicine. He is host and producer of the weekly science podcast, The SkepticsGuide to the Universe.
Cowriters Bob Novella, Cara Santa Maria, Jay Novella, and Evan Bernstein bring their unique personalities to the podcast and this book.

Grand Central Publishing, 512 pages.

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