- Buy this product and stream 90 days of Amazon Music Unlimited for free. E-mail after purchase. Conditions apply. Learn more
Don't Get Fooled Again: The Sceptic's Guide to Life Hardcover – 4 Sep 2008
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Special offers and product promotions
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers also shopped for
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Reviews for his first book, 'Titanic Express': "'Incredibly moving' Ziauddin Sardar, Independent 'An astonishing chronicle' Bronwen Maddox, The Times 'I have watched in growing admiration how, with dogged persistence, Richard Wilson has conducted a singular crusade, not just to bring his sister's murderers to justice, but to understand who they were and why they killed her.' Jon Swain, Sunday Times"
‘An enjoyable polemic against pretty much everything really, and as it rips apart our own gullibility and life in general, it also manages to highlight a lot of the basic philosophical premises that we have opted into without giving them real consideration in the first place. An enjoyable diatribe, indeed.’ Author: Publishing News
'Richard’s Wilson’s [book] has been likened to Francis Wheen’s ‘How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World.’ It provides an objective and philosophical dissection of some commonly held beliefs. Almost a self-help book, this provides the reader with the analytical tools to avoid being taken for a ride, as well as being entertaining and informative.' Author: Patrick Neale, Bookseller
‘… a very useful handbook for people who know that things they read in the paper or hear on the television are "not quite right" and need to be challenged.’ Author: A Common Reader
'Written in lucid prose, well researched and strongly argued, ‘Don’t Get Fooled Again’ is a great little book. It has reminded me of the virtues of scepticism (as distinct from cynicism, which is unthinking negativity and expecting the worst in all circumstances). So, if you don’t want to buy a pig in a poke, have the wool pulled over your eyes or be an unquestioning sheep, then this is the book for you.' Author: Bookgeeks
‘There’s so much gold in Wilson’s book it’s hard to pick out specific examples. Wilson explains in a wonderful aside that the brain regenerates itself every seven years - meaning in effect that you will be a completely different person by November 30 2015. He shatters the postmodern paradigm of a Western imperial Enlightenment forced upon complaining natives by discussing the developing world’s substantial contributions to science.’ Author: Max Dunbar
‘Prescribed read for the hype-harassed and panic-pumped.’ Author: Hindu
‘It’s refreshing to read this new book by Richard Wilson.’ Author: Brendan Wallace, Fortean Times
‘Wilson’s book is a necessary and well-written guide to guarding yourself against 'being fooled again'.’ Author: Brendan Wallace, Fortean Times
Why is it that, time and again, intelligent, educated people end up falling for ideas that turn out on closer examination to be nonsense? We live in a supposedly rational age, yet crazy notions seem increasingly mainstream. New Age peddlers claim to cure Aids with vitamin tablets. Media gatekeepers stoke panic and regurgitate corporate press releases in the name of 'balance'. Wild-eyed men in sandwich boards blame it all on the CIA.Even the word 'sceptic' has been appropriated by cranks and conspiracy theorists bent on rewriting history and debunking sound science. But while it may be easier than ever for nonsense to spread, it's never been simpler to fight back. "Don't Get Fooled Again" offers practical tools for cutting through the claptrap and unravelling the spin - tackling propaganda, the psychology of deception, pseudo-news, bogus science, the weird cult of 'Aids reappraisal', numerous conspiracy theories (including the one about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq), and much more. Richard Wilson's book is user-friendly, enjoyable, shot through with polemic - and argues forcefully for a positive solution.See all Product description
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Wilson starts the book with a scam he witnessed as a teenager (but which goes back to the Middle Ages and from which we get the expressions "buying a pig in a poke" and "let the cat out of the bag"). He was impressed that the "salesman had managed to fool the crowd completely, while speaking the literal truth", relying on haste and greed for a bargain to override the crowd's better judgement. This is hardly grand larceny of course, but no less instructive for being on a small scale. After all, we're more likely to fall victim to this kind of salesmanship than to the high-rolling Madoffs of this world.
One of the pleasures of this book is the real-world examples that get you hot under the collar (and misty eyed about trading standards and the Sale of Goods Act). Another is the serious intellectual argument against relativism. The glib catchphrase "it's all relative" is "an idea with troubling implications". "If truth is entirely subjective, then it's futile even discussing your point of view with people you disagree with. If we reject logic, then it's impossible to put together any kind of system for distinguishing good ideas from gibberish." There are many straightforward questions we can ask of any factual claim. "Is the evidence detailed and specific or vague and generalised? Does it come from multiple sources or just a handful? Is it internally coherent, or are there contradictions? Is it consistent with other well-supported facts? Are human sources named? If so, what are their credentials and what's their track record?"
Everyone can understand these principles, even if they can be hard work to follow through. "The antidotes to delusion are logic and evidence, preferably evidence from multiple sources" and Wilson himself sets a good example, with forty-nine pages of notes. Much of his source material is available on the web, which he rightly celebrates as enabling better access to a wider range of fact and opinion. Of course, such access could be counterproductive, especially if we switch off our sceptically tempered judgement.
Flexibility is key: when better ideas come along, we need to change. Science is one system that has proved spectacularly successful at revising itself, while religion has a pitiful record. The reason is simple: only religion makes a virtue of faith, of holding fast to a dogmatic core, which renders it intellectually brittle, and constantly in need of strapping delusions to hold it together. "Religion is, in a sense, the ultimate pig in a poke."
Given the overall good sense of the book, I was quite surprised to come across some isolated pockets of duff thinking. At one point Wilson says, "we have no rational way of knowing what the future holds", which seems odd after extolling the benefits of "inductive reasoning": if it's not rational to believe the sun will rise tomorrow, then all bets are off. Even in the context of our unpredictable personal lives, where he talks about having "irrational faith" in the future, I would rather think in terms of "rational hopes" (for example, planning for a rainy day by saving instead of buying lottery tickets).
I was also surprised by his perplexity at the continuity of self given the discontinuity of the materials of the brain (our cells are constantly being replaced). "Once we take the immortal soul out of the equation, even the idea of ourselves as individual beings whose existence endures steadily throughout one lifetime seems difficult to sustain..." Does it? Our thoughts are not tied to particular neurons but to the (complex) relationships between neurons, and these patterns surely survive the substitution of individual atoms and molecules. These are difficult subjects, and I could be the one who's off the mark here. Anyway, even if he is wrong on some things, I admire him for writing with clarity and transparency, for not obfuscating or making unwarranted appeals to authority.
He is right to emphasize that being a sceptic does not "necessarily mean believing in nothing" and this book will help dispel the caricature of a disengaged, cynical and generally negative person. Never before has humanity had so much access to so much learning, but along with that enhanced freedom comes the responsibility to exercise our sceptical muscles. We have the tools: the "basic principles of logic, consistency, evidence and 'inductive reasoning' are common to every human society" and are not the sole preserve of some imagined western intellectual elite. It's up to us to challenge faith, ideology, prejudice, ignorance, whatever stands in the way of getting at the truth. For Christians, "Doubting Thomas" was a failure, the person they should strive not to be. For Wilson, Thomas would make a fine "patron saint of sceptics", someone who is not afraid of asking awkward questions.
Wilson covers dubious advertising, news stories that are no more than uncritical rehashes of press releases, manufactured controversies and much else besides, all with examples and copious footnotes (so if you have any doubt you are free to check his sources -- many of which are available for free on the web).
By way of example he goes into detail about Trofim Lysenko's bogus attempts to reform Soviet agriculture, as well as examining Clarence Cook Little's initially successful efforts in the 1950's to obfuscate the growing concern about a link between tobacco and lung cancer.
There's a chapter about AIDS denialism -- the claim that there's no evidence HIV causes AIDS, and that anti-retroviral drugs actually cause AIDS. He deals with the tendency to invent neologisms to disguise and defuse serious problems, whether factual or ethical, and he goes into some detail on the religious question, in response to the "new atheist" publishing phenomenon.
He touches on corruption in high places, mentioning the secrecy surrounding MP's expenses (the book was published before the widespread scandal -- which is probably a good thing, else it would be twice the length and dominated by a single issue).
The book is a comprehensive overview of matters that should concern us all, by someone who appears to be of a generally liberal/left persuasion (something that he doesn't conceal -- nor should he). It covers a selection of sceptical subjects, but gives the overall impression that these are but a fraction of what's going on, and with which we should be engaged. In the modern world he could probably write another book with entirely different examples, and we should therefore be eternally vigilant.