Customer Review

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helps you to spot the flaws in arguments. A companion to "Bad Science" and Richard Dawkins' books, 5 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Do They Think You're Stupid? (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed this book. It addresses various logical fallacies and shows where the fallacy may - or may not, on closer inspection - lie.

There are 100 brief chapters. Each starts with a quote which forms the basis for discussion. Take, for example, chapter 28:

"Cow's milk is meant for baby cows. Which helps explain why this foodstuff is a leading cause of unwanted reactions to foods that can give rise to a variety of health issues such as nasal congestion, sinusitis, eczema and asthma". Dr John Briffa, Observer Food Monthly.

It was a shock to read that as I agree with it. So where's the logical fallacy? The author writes:

"...By Briffa's logic, a chicken thigh is meant to help it stand up and walk. Does that mean we should be wary about eating it because it wasn't meant for eating?..."

and

"...The point is simple and obvious: the fact that something did not evolve as a human foodstuff does not mean we shouldn't eat it. In fact, if we ate only what was unambiguously meant for us to eat then we'd starve to death as soon as we stopped breast-feeding...".

His point is not that Dr Briffa is necessarily wrong but that the way he states it is wrong - it contains on the face of it a logical fallacy. Now, had Dr Briffa said there was evidence that some people are allergic to cow's milk and there is evidence of that then that would be another matter. Maybe Dr Briffa meant that but it is not what the quote states.

Perhaps the author has accidentally committed one of his own errors - taking Dr Briffa's words out of context - see chapter 22 for that (hey, it's a seamless link, like on TV). The author starts the chapter with Dr Johnson's well known "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life" quote but he quotes the words immediately before and after that too which reveal that Dr Johnson was talking solely about "intellectual men" in London. The quote that we are familiar with has been taken out of context.

The author points out the harsh realities of London in Dr Johnson's era, and that there would be plenty of people outside this narrow circle (e.g. intellectual women, the poor etc.) who would have had very good reason to be tired of London.

The author also points out that the quote is also 200 years old and Dr Johnson would not recognise much of London today, so he would not be in a position to judge whether London now is the best place in the world to live.

One chapter I really liked was chapter 14 which starts with a quote from a magazine called 'Spirit and Destiny':

"Julie (she's open to spiritual stuff) and Kate (the cynical one) continue their voyage of discovery through the world of the New Age. This month our testing twosome try colourpuncture".

I am embarrassed to say that I couldn't see the logical fallacy in that. That's where the book is helpful - it opens your eyes to how your mindset can be influenced without you realising. The logical fallacy is that the author plants a seed in our minds - before we have even read the body of the article in that magazine - that Julie is better than Kate (because they are described as "open" and "cynical" respectively). The author has predisposed you to favouring Julie over Kate.

Which brings me nicely on to the "mind projection fallacy" - just because I like this book doesn't necessarily mean that you will. And beware of the "argument from authority" fallacy - just because Amazon rates me as a top something-or-other reviewer does not mean that my opinion is anything special or should be given more weight.
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Mister G
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Location: Bristol

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