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on 10 September 2003
Put the crystals away, snuff out the ear candles, let the dolphins swim on their own for a while, and read this book. If you've ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of beliefs that are being peddled these days then you have a use for the Skeptic's Dictionary. There is a great deal of information in here that will benefit the honest enquirer, answering questions, exposing lies, illustrating pit-falls and prompting further investigation. The style of writing and the format make it very readable, the content makes it worthwhile. You may be surprised at the breadth of subjects touched upon, you may even find some of your own pet beliefs challenged, but the challenge is to think, to reason, to understand, not just to engage in an exchange of assertions.
Bob Carroll describes himself as a "hardened skeptic" and makes no attempt to give equal weight to both sides of the debate, that isn't why he wrote the book, but the text is lively and humorous, not hectoring. I hope that the Skeptic's Dictionary will find its way into school libraries, no one will be impoverished by exposing themselves to this kind of critical approach and a few may be saved the pain and disillusionment of being duped, or the worse fate of becoming permanently gullible.
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VINE VOICEon 19 February 2004
If, like me, you have ever found your self in an argument, either with a peddler or believer, of some bizarre, non-sensical or illucid ideology, cult or quackery and needed some ammunition, then Carroll's book is for you.
While no subject is covered in fine detail, it is comprehensive, with everything, from new-age spirituality and the supernatural to paranoid conspiracy theorists covered, it provides a rich antidote to the flood of ill-thought and delusional beliefs that plague us daily.
With the popular media, uncritically promoting new-age fads (homeopathy etc.) or recycling old ones (psychic crime solvers), there is too little literature, championing critical thought and objective analysis. This book is just a part of the small canon of work that sets out to present a reasoned response to the fuzzy-thinking and self-deception that is passed off as spiritual truth.
I doubt whether it will manage to change the mind of many a true-believer, in fact that's not the author's purpose. It is more of an overview of what currently held beliefs and fallacies and their counter-arguments. Hopefully it will enable a person, unsure of what to make of the claims they are faced with, to make a more informed decision and also to strengthen the argument and thinking of the casual skeptic.
My only criticism of the book is purely on the low-grade quality of some of the images inside, a minor point as the strength of the book comes purely from the text.
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on 21 January 2007
Despite the comments to the contrary, this is not a book about debunking. It is a glossary of paranormal terms explained from a skeptics point of view. On that count it is excellent. The terms included are surprisingly broad and there definitions are concise. This is a true coffee table book. If you want a deeper text on the subject I recommend any of the work by James Randi.

In one of the other reviewers defense Mr. Carroll is not in fact an expert in the paranormal. But since the laws of the paranormal change everyday it's kind of hard to become an expert.
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on 8 November 2005
I enjoyed this book. The author does not pretend that he has conducted deep research into the topics discussed. The book merely applies philosophical rationalism to debunk the fantasies of those people who believe irrationalism is an adequate method of forming beliefs.
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on 27 April 2005
This is an enjoyable book and is helping me to overcome my fears of the supernatural.
All Carroll does is point out that, to date, whenever paranormal phenomena and abilities have been put to the test (controlled studies), they have very rarely shown anything better than chance results.
Carroll also stresses that a lot of stuff is simply in the observer's mind. The Ouija board, for instance, tells you what's in the depths of your mind, not what some "spirit" thinks. The reason people frighten themselves silly is that they don't often like to find out what lurks beneath. The unconscious mind is often best left at that - unconscious.
Again: a crystal is a piece of glass for Heaven's sake. How can that heal anybody of anything?
Finally, he points out the many logical fallacies, e.g., post hoc reasoning, that believers use to justify their beliefs. Just because your results improve after donning a magnetic bracelet is not proof of a causal connection - they dip and rise naturally, and the placebo effect is well known.
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on 8 February 2006
I love this book. It is an entertaining list of information exposing the frauds that convince so many people. No wonder some people come out in spots seeing their favorite vanities and conceits outted.
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on 24 April 2013
I very much enjoy reading this book, which is on the whole, a good guide to some of the most absurd and unbelievably insane notions and practices ever conceived. There are some entries, albeit very few, that let it down, either because they shouldn't be there (psychoanalysis is not a paranormal phenomenon), or because Mr Carroll's counter-arguement is weak, to inaccurate, to non-existent. The entry for Deja-Vu, is one such example; the author presents us with a catalogue of possibilities for the cause of Deja-Vu, each as weak as the next, before finally implying that people with strong experiences in this area, are potential psychiatric cases!

Despite its relatively small failings, this volume is informative, witty and fairly well researched - my personal favourite is The Forer Effect, which gave me a good laugh for its amazing ability to demonstrate just how our levels of gullibility and excessive self-preoccupation, help to line the pockets of quacks and charlatans.
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on 10 October 2011
This book is an absolute delight!
It is in the form of a dictionary or is it more appropriately an encyclopaedia?
You can start reading at page 1 but I think most people will dip in and out of what catches their eye,
or they may just look things up as they occur.
There are so many things in here that are weird, wonderful, unbelievable or proven to be false.
That's what a lot of the book is about - undermining what a lot of us have been told over the years
and it just ain't so! Whether it's fairy stories, gossip, old wives' tales or moonshine, this book looks into it and
tells us if it's true - or not.
There's a lot of people out there who are prepared to make money out of the gullible, and there's
a lot of gullible people out there prepared to part with that money too!
A wonderful addition to any bookshelf.
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on 7 December 2015
Nothing new - just taken entries from their website and put it into a book
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on 23 July 2015
A very good read
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