This is an essential and fairminded book which vigourously argues the principles of scepticism and scientific method as a strategy for defending rationality against claims of the paranormal, psuedo-science and - unusually - psuedo-history. He does not flinch from criticising the use of irrational arguments as a debating tool against irrational arguments, pointing out that this is often counter-productive as well as a betrayal of the principles of scepticism. The book contains two long sections dealing specifically with the spurious claims of creationism to be considered a science, and with the Holocaust denial. I found these particularly interesting as neither controversy has been aired much in Britain. The list of twenty-five false arguments of creationists, exposing the logical errors underlying their claims, is very useful both in itself and as a more general illustration of the type of errors one encounters on a daily basis in the media and elsewhere. It astonishes me that anyone should feel it necessary to include a chapter on 'How we Know the Holocaust Happened'. The fact that Shermer does include this chapter is, I suppose, in itself an illustration of the dangers of psuedo-history and other forms of sloppy thinking. In summary, this book is not so much about why people believe wierd things - although he does go into that too - as how to know that the things they believe are wierd.
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