This book deserves the widest possible exposure in America, especially so close to the election, because it an excellent primer on how to guard yourself against the faulty reasoning that governs so much modern political discourse - and avoid adopting it yourself. I first heard about the book because one of its points was mentioned in an essay. The point was basically that just because someone has a motive to hold a certain position doesn't necessarily mean that the position is false. This seemed pretty obvious, but as I turned to the media I was amazed at how often politicians use this method, and how easily I had accepted their claims if they lined up with my political preferences.
Any damaging report against either side, for example, would frequently be denounced as a "partisan" attack, with occasional documentation of how the person who presented the report was tied to one party or another, as if this were the issue at hand. No attempt was made to address whether the report was true or not, the assumption being that exposing a bias - a motive for the potentially false information - was conclusive evidence.
Some of the things Whyte discussed in the book - for example, sample bias in statistics - are going to be familiar to many people, but just as frequently he comes up with something that all of us have probably used in an argument. For example, in the chapter "begging the question," he quotes a common pro-choice argument: "If you believe abortion is wrong, that's fine, don't abort your pregnancies. But show tolerance toward others who don't share your beliefs."
He points out that this ignores that actual position of anti-abortionists, that abortion is murder, morally equivalent to killing a live human being. The argument for tolerance takes for granted that the fetus is not really a person, and that therefore it should be possible for everyone to only be concerned with their own behavior. But as Whyte points out, anyone that actually wishes to confront the issue will have to address the question of whether the fetus is a human being. So many pleas for tolerance between certain feuding religions, he points out, have the same problem, because they skirt the genuine issue that is giving rise to the outrage - that, by the tenets of some religions, only one of them can be true.
I suspect Whyte's positions on religion will offend the most readers. He has no sympathy for familiar arguments about the un-knowable nature of god, or that the intricacy of life on earth necessarily implies a god (already taken apart by Hume in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion); he also presents a simple and conclusive refutation of Pascal's gambit that I've never come across before. Luckily, he does not exhibit the most annoying characteristic of many rationalists, smugness; instead, he seems to have a deep desire to get at truth, which I think we are more in need of today than any amount of vague piety.
The book will only take a couple of days to read, and is very clearly written. I remember an article that dealt with similar material that I read in high school, forgotten now because it ended up as an exercise in memorizing the Latin names of various fallacies. Whyte is conscientious about calling things by their common names. Buy the book, give it to your friends, and try to get at the bottom of why you believe what you do (and whether you still should).