Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and Fake History Hardcover – 1 Jan 2008
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"'Damian Thompson's extraordinary book is literally a revelation... Superb and often breathtaking.' J. G. Ballard, Daily Telegraph"
About the Author
Damian Thompson is a leader-writer for the Daily Telegraph. He is also editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald and the author of The End of Time (1996) and Waiting for Antichrist (2005).
Top Customer Reviews
I'm still looking for the definitive book on all things 'woo' and though this is not it, it's still a decent primer into the world of 'Counter-Knowledge'.
Where the subject of this book -counter-knowledge- begins and ends I don't know and from the author's definition I'm still not entirely clear. Given the author's occupation as a writer for a christian publication, what defines orthodox knowledge for him may not chime with everyone else's definition.
Still, I believe at least he is nominally on the side of rationality and reason. Even if some of his personal beliefs, for me, make him a target of his own argument.
Thompson writes in clear, elegant prose which belies his deep research of the subject matter. The argument put forward is clear, ratonal and of interest to anyone who's dismayed by the conspiracy theory and easy answer culture of our decade. Previous reviews have mentioned the author's (purported)Catholicism but these purely ad hominem attacks miss the point. Even if you don't agree with Thompson's targets (and with holocaust denial, homeoipathy and creatonism - you'd be remiss not to) then this book is still a valuable treasure trove of methodology. Thompson lays out a process by which all 'knowledge' can be emprically tested. This is so essential that it's a surprise no one teaches it to kids in school.
Oh, did I also mention that te book is funny? well, that it is; acerbic and witty in all the right places. In an age where believeing in UFOs and believing in DNA are accorded the same credibility by the masses, this is that rare thing, a truly necessary book whose lessons you can take with you and apply to anything. In the years to come, this will be seen as a ground-breaking text on destroying dogma and piffle....make sure you read it now and arm yourself against the exigencies of fiction masquerading as fact.
However, the book's downfall is ironically preset in its own approach to 'facts'. Unfortunately, Thompson's reasoning, scattered citations and poorly disguised subjectivity in his portrayal of counterknowledge ultimately mirrors his criticism of how counterknowledge is spread in the first place. For example, in the same paragraph of describing how the 'cultic milieu', in their stupidy, basically think everything is conspiratorial and unrealistic once they accept one conspiracy, he goes on to make the generalisation that since 9/11 is supposedly an unjustified conspiracy, so must be the case with ESP, UFOs, Bible Prophesy, near-death experiences, and so on. This sort of generalisation becomes ubiquitous as the book progresses; and thus Thompson forms his own 'cultic milieu', which should probably be renamed 'sceptic milieu' - as it seems just about as valid to presume that all conspiracies and unlikely events are false as it is to presume that all are true. I see this book as a piece of counterknowledge in itself by the way it arrogantly presents all its inferences and conclusions as fact, thus being as misleading to the weaker-minded reader as the likes of Dan Brown - only on the opposite end of the spectrum.
This said, 'Counterknowledge' does have SOME valid points and, albeit at the expense of its integrity, is an entertaining read.
As a rule of thumb - I avoid sources which place a blanket rejection over things which THEY label as "conspiracy" or "quackery". These are emotive terms used to manipulate people into knee-jerk reactions and are never used by serious thinkers. Most of the time they are speaking from emotion instead of the reason and rationality that they claim exclusive sovereignty over. Any source which relies on manipulative language, ridicule and any measure of verbal abuse to make its case is an entirely bankrupt source unworthy of even a second of time, in my opinion and experience. This book ticks all these boxes.
The message of this book is pretty much "Institutions and corporations know the facts and you don't, so stop trying to think for yourself and just accept what you're told". History proves with endless repetition that established fact is always changing and what is established fact in one decade can become absurdity in the next. This book is already scientifically obsolete in this decade, in another one or two it will be a rag.
We can credit it with poking holes in the most obvious and crudest of theories, which anyone can do.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
this book sets out to question and debunk. its quite wide ranging which can give it a bit of a sneering tone but its autopsy of the book 1421 was interesting,homeopathy and some... Read morePublished on 21 April 2014 by m. dosa
While Thompson convinces that 'counter-knowledge', an odd conflation of "conspiracy theories, quack theories, quack medicine, bogus science and fake history" is a real issue he... Read morePublished on 7 July 2013 by Clive P L Young
Thompson's argument like Andrew Keen's is that now we have the internet it is much easier to spread disinformation and crank ideas - his counterknowldge. Read morePublished on 1 Nov. 2012 by Andrew Dalby
I borrowed a copy of this book from the public library a couple of years ago, and when I read it, I was very disappointed with the author's attitude toward homeopathy. Read morePublished on 21 Dec. 2011 by Jonathan Davies
Talking about quack medicine, vaccines are the best
'Vaccines did not save humanity and never will. Vaccines have never been proven truly safe ... Read more
I came late to this book and what a disappointment. The author has written a derivative pot boiler which draws heavily on well known works and arguments by the likes of Wheen and... Read morePublished on 25 July 2010 by M. Haynes
I can't believe A C Grayling gave this book a good review. 'Counterknowledge' will not save us from the tsunami of misinformation, falsity, error and distortion that infect our... Read morePublished on 10 Jan. 2010 by mysterioustraveller
If conspiracy theories annoy you, bogus 'experts' bother you, and pseudo history frustrates you - here's why it is the credulous fall for so much untested stuff, and why the spread... Read morePublished on 16 Nov. 2009 by Dilberto
Damian is a good spin doctor at his job praising the Vatican for the Catholic Herald. I suppose there are two kinds of truth for Damian, The Truth and Catholic Truth, but they... Read morePublished on 4 April 2009 by Rudy Manchego