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Do They Think You're Stupid?: 100 Ways of Spotting Spin and Nonsense from the Media, Celebrities and Politicians Paperback – 4 Mar 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Frequently bought together

  • Do They Think You're Stupid?: 100 Ways of Spotting Spin and Nonsense from the Media, Celebrities and Politicians
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  • The Pig That Wants to be Eaten: And Ninety-Nine Other Thought Experiments
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  • Do You Think What You Think You Think?
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; 2nd Revised edition edition (4 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847080839
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847080837
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

Julian Baggini is the editor and co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine. His books include Do You Think What You Think YouThink? (with Jeremy Stangroom), What's It All About? - Philosophy and the Meaning of Life and The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, all published by Granta Books.


Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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).
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Format: Paperback
I picked this book up because I'm fascinated and appalled by the misuse of logic, by the misrepresentation of opinions, by the way people in power (in the media as much as in politics) abuse their power through their astute and clever dishonesty.

`Do They Think You're Stupid?' is the title of the book, but its implied subtitle is Baggini asking `Do You Think I'm Clever?' Well, yes, I admit, I do think he is clever. He cleverly takes a series of texts which his reader is unlikely to know directly. He cunningly selects the slenderest of phrases. And then his book mocks and scorns the writers in question. Well, as it happens, some time ago, I had read `No Logo', one of the books he attacks, and his interpretation seemed peculiar, and wholly at odds with my memory. Puzzled, I took the book off my shelves and looked again. And I was disgusted at the way Baggini misrepresented it, in a way which is not only illogical but profoundly deceptive. I went on to look at a few other writers Baggini attacks: over and over again, Baggini twists their words, cherrypicks their arguments, to make flat-footed generalisations which the original text do not warrant. He also, incidentally, lambasts Thom Yorke's praise for George Monbiot. I doubt very much that the world would be a more intelligent place with a Baggini but without Radiohead, Monbiot and Klein. But the reasons for Baggini's disapproval of Yorke are interesting. Baggini says that Thom Yorke is a musician, and therefore has no authority whatsoever to comment on any political subject. The crassness of this view speaks for itself, but Baggini's hypocrisy is also striking, for Baggini offers us his opinion of Thom Yorke's musical skills.
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By Hande Z TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a book that exposes fallacies in arguments - using actual statements by prominent persons as examples. The book is made up of 100 chapters with 99 examples each making a short chapter; the 100th chapter is not an example but a summary and last word. Bagginni's first chapter examines the statement by a NASA astronaut, Eugene Cernan who was reported as having stated: "No one in their right mind can look in the stars and the eternal blackness everywhere and deny the spirituality of the experience, and the existence of a Supernatural Being." Calling it an "argument from incredulity" Baggini explains why this statement "manages to pack three dubious, but persuasive, punches." This is a book that will help develop clear thinking, but as the author warned, some of his arguments might deserve the same flaws he sees in those he analysed. In mitigation, he explains that a player might commit infringements that he might have called "foul" had the player been the referee instead. This is a fine, readable book partly because it carries mostly contemporary examples although there are some historical ones such as one made by Samuel Johnson (chapter 22). The examples spread over many subjects, from politics to religion, to science, philosophy and literary criticism.
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This book does for politics and the media what Bad Science did for quack medicine. The book is divided into 100 short articles - some of which are related to each other (this is a similar format to 30 second philosophies). This looks at what people say and if their rhetoric actually holds water. There are some excellent examples and I particularly liked the one about Donald Rumsfeld which made me laugh out loud until I found out he was right and my assumptions were wrong!

This is how philosophy and critical thinking should be taught. This is how to make sure that we are all part of an informed public. It is no use giving citizenship classes in schools and looking at science in society or the impact of the media when you can actually have concrete examples from everyday life, presented in an interesting and dynamic way.
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