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on 31 August 2007
I agree entirely with another review that said this is entertaining and insightful, but with sadly many mistakes. While agreeing with everyone elses quoted mistakes, I thought I would add to the catalogue.

Homeopathic dilutions. The general statement that Whyte makes that homeopathic dilutions can be so dilute they are extremely unlikely to contain even a single molecule of the solute, is correct, but the specific example he gives is arithmetically wrong. In an X20 solution, 1cc of solution would contain 10 to 100 molecules of the solute, if we take the solute to have a molecular weight of 60 to 600g/mol, a plausible range for a nature-derived chemical. Although for a macro-molecule like a protein, with much larger molecular weight over 6000g/mol, then there would be on average fewer than one left in 1cc. 1cc is a small quantity; if we are interested in proving none left in larger quantities, then rather larger dilutions are required.

The Trinity. Whyte argues that the Trinitarian Christians' doctrine that God is Three and God is One must be false, by appealing, it appears, to axiomatic set theory. I think it is actually just a pedant's joke. I think Trinitarians are guilty of no more than Humpty-Dumpty-speak ("a word means what I say it means"). There are plausible alternative interpretations of what Trinitarians mean when they say that, which are consistent with axiomatic set theory, and reflect more closely what they actually mean. In other words, Whyte is forcing on them a kind of "contractual interpretation" of their metaphorical words to impose upon them a belief they don't in fact have. A classic straw man argument that he so deplores.

Popper and the falsity of God. Whyte wrongly implies that the Popperian notion of a theory takes the position that an untestable theory is a false theory. (Popper coined the horrible word "unfalsifiable" instead of "untestable", a bad PR move; but, along with many I prefer to use the synonym "untestable", whose meaning is clear.) Whyte goes on to argue that since the existence of God (provided one says little more than that) is an untestable theory, it must be wrong. This is a misunderstanding of what Popper said, as well as being logically wrong - and Popper was nothing if not logically rigorous. Indeed I agree with Popper himself that the Popperian notion of a theory is not so much a philosophy as a logical necessity. Sadly, it is not uncommon for professional philosophers to misunderstand what Popper meant here, probably because many professional philosophers lack sufficient understanding of science. What Popper actually says is that an untestable theory is (a) vacuous, since it makes no prediction, so in a scientific sense we don't need it - - and (b) not a theory at all, rather a belief, tautologically, since it is untestable. In other words, all Popper tells us is that belief in a God is religion not science, which I think we already knew. That is why "creation scientists" get up real scientists' noses so much. Richard Dawkins is much better on this. He distinguishes carefully between deist and theist notions of religion, deism being the vacuous belief "there is a god, he created the universe and its laws" and no more; whereas theism (additional beliefs such as those in the bible/koran) adds a lot of magical baggage which typically becomes testable and hence inconsistent with science. Dawkins understands perfectly that the deist position is logically unimpeachable, and restricts his arguments to theists who believe a lot more. Compare this with the situation in Axiomatic Set Theory, the basic axioms of mathematics, (which Whyte implicitly uses). The Axioms are (tautologically) untestable. But it doesn't mean that these axioms are "false". If that were so, we would get a contradiction from using them, and we don't. We can even pick and choose which axioms we like, as with different geometries using different axioms.
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on 1 June 2007
This is a nice little introduction to logical thought, which is in itself none too taxing. After reading it, you'll be spotting logical mistakes in no time. However, as noted by a previous reviewer, Whyte does go on about religion quite a bit, which to my mind is the weakest aspect of the book.

The main problem is that he never really goes very indepth (which would have been interesting), preferring instead to take pot-shots, and then move quickly on. His assertion that there can't be an all-powerful God if evil exists is particularly poor, presented as it is without any sort of discussion about what "all-powerful" means (many if not most Theists do not believe God to be "all-powerful" in the way Whyte suggests), or what "evil" means. Instead, he blithely states that people who believe this have been "convinced by one of the many bogus theological attempts to show this belief consistent with the existence of evil", and then pretty much leaves it there. This, and Whtye's other attacks on religion are generally straw man arguments, and so are bad form for a book on logical fallacies. Admittedly, the book is short, and so it would be hard to give a detailed examination of the religious themes, but this is the very reason the book would have been stronger without them; if when writing a book on logical fallacies you can't mention something without it sounding like a logical fallacy, you should probably not mention it at all.

Still, Whyte is frequently humorous, and he does write in a lively, engaging style. If you don't mind putting up with Whyte's personal religious opinions being presented as gospel (pun intended), I'd recommended this book as a good starting point, with the proviso that those interested will progress to something a bit more substantial.
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on 28 January 2004
Jamie Whyte admits to being an inveterate writer of outraged letters that never get published. "Bad Thoughts" reads a little like an expanded version of those letters, being in parts a little disjointed as he moves from one subject to another. But it is always entertaining as the combative Mr Whyte gets stuck into various kinds of sloppy thinking. It's worth the money for the section on "Begging the question" alone. I have found the book to be of surprising practical value whenever I find myself in debate with people with whom I disagree - and now examples of the kind of dismal thinking which he highlights jump off the pages of newspapers all the time. Don't let them get away with it!
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VINE VOICEon 8 August 2004
This book is a short, easy, entertaining read. It's about errors in logic and irrationale arguments. And the writer sounds like he's been in more than his fair share of arguments. You can almost feel his anguish!
I really enjoyed his attack on the "I have the right to my opinion" brigade. You don't according to Mr Whyte - unless you have researched your opinion. Brilliant! The book is instructional. You will definitely learn something from it - even if you only learn about the flaws in your own beliefs. Highly recommended.
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on 4 June 2013
This is an easy read if you are interested in how we all use reason and logic. It classifies fallacies and errors in reasoning while providing examples of how to spot them.

The most interesting thing is how it exposes human imperfection in the area logic and reason. None of us are consistently perfect in our thinking and so get caught out using fallacies. No matter how educated or intelligent we think we may be. The author is no exception! He is seeking absolute truth around the question of God - if there is one. As early as the second chapter the book falls prey to its own authority fallacy when commenting on mystery and then begs the question when providing opinion about the meaning of faith. Later, on p25 the author rips apart a religious opinion and replaces it with an assertion about intellectual honesty which is itself open to question. After this I found the book mundane because it lost objectivity while promoting the author's opinions in so many examples - an author's prerogative perhaps.

In all it exposes the relative pluralism basis of thinking which most of us use to be inadequate to solve big questions. Explaining fallacies and logic errors is just stating the obvious. The final sentence is an honest summing up.
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on 7 January 2004
I got given this for christmas and was initially reluctant to read yet another "how to think" book. But this is a very well written and easy-to-read example. Each chapter starts with a seemingly plausible premise along the lines of "everyone is entitled to their opinion" which is then analysed for its rational basis and then dissected along with lots of examples of how irrational ideas are commonly used in arguments (especially by politicians). The author also has a wry sense of humour which helps you to feel less nerdy while reading it.
The answers to life aren't here, but I did finish feeling like a better thinker than I was before I started it.
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on 10 June 2004
This book is a really enjoyable romp through many of the rhetorical devices and vague claims that populate popular journalism in particular (and also popular science books).
In different chapters, Whyte gives examples of the way that poor arguments are constructed and given for many claims that do not stand close scrutiny. I particularly enjoyed his examples of management consultant speak.
He rightly points out that just because someone might have a motive for holding a particular view, that in itself does not nullify the argument.
The book is full of topical examples, which get your attention but may in the long run reduce the shelf-life of the book.
I recommend this to anyone who wants to understand what makes a good argument. Unfortunately, it may not help you win arguments with some people, but at least you will have the satisfaction of understanding why you are right.
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on 7 October 2004
I ordered this book having seen Jamie Whyte interviewed in New Scientist. I was not disappointed. It is short, witty, and to the point. It should be compulsory for every sixteen year old in the future and for anybody even remotely interested in the problems that beset our world. Whyte mounts a devestating attack on modern thinking, demonstrating how we have become lazy and irrational in equal measure. After reading it, you will be amazed at how much "bad thinking" you come across and - my only negative - how much it begins to annoy having now got the tools to identify it! Buy it and then give it to someone!
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on 15 March 2004
Imagine that you were unjustly thrown in jail as a small child and grew up thinking that your cell is the entirety of the world. One day a nice man comes along and throws you a key and you discover that you've been living a somewhat sheltered life. Jamie Whyte is the nice man and this book is the key! What release! Read this book and carry it around with you until you've learnt every trip and trick that keeps your mind imprisoned. Are you being subjected to inconsistency, equivocation, shocking statistics or morality fever? You probably won't know until you're armed with the insights contained in this book. Read it now before the world goes completely crazy!
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on 29 December 2008
Jamie Whyte has given a much needed introduction to logical thought.

As the book points out with several examples, most people seem adverse to thinking logically. Whyte makes a point of highlighting areas where we lack logical thought and points out better ways to approach these issues.

I agree with almost every point he makes in this book and can't help but share Whyte's frustration.

Really well written, great for those who like to challenge themselves a little.
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