Maybe you know someone who swears by the reliability of psychics or who is in regular contact with angels. Or perhaps you're trying to find a nice way of dissuading someone from wasting money on a homeopathy cure. Or you met someone at a party who insisted the Holocaust never happened or that no one ever walked on the moon.
How do you find a gently persuasive way of steering people away from unfounded beliefs, bogus cures, conspiracy theories, and the like? Longtime skeptic Guy P. Harrison shows you how in this down-to-earth, entertaining exploration of commonly held extraordinary claims.
A veteran journalist, Harrison has not only surveyed a vast body of literature, but has also interviewed leading scientists, explored "the most haunted house in America," frolicked in the inviting waters of the Bermuda Triangle, and even talked to a "contrite Roswell alien."
Harrison is not out simply to debunk unfounded beliefs. Wherever possible, he presents alternative scientific explanations, which in most cases are even more fascinating than the wildest speculation. For example, stories about UFOs and alien abductions lack good evidence, but science gives us plenty of reasons to keep exploring outer space for evidence that life exists elsewhere in the vast universe. The proof for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster may be nonexistent, but scientists are regularly discovering new species, some of which are truly stranger than fiction.
Stressing the excitement of scientific discovery and the legitimate mysteries and wonder inherent in reality, Harrison invites listeners to share the joys of rational thinking and the skeptical approach to evaluating our extraordinary world.
©2011 Guy P. Harrison (P)2012 Gildan Media LLC
"A much needed tour through common delusions about reality. Harrison writes clearly and succinctly about beliefs that are not supported by science or logic. However, he does so with sympathy and understanding for the reasons so many people find comfort in the irrational." (Victor J. Stenger, author of the New York Times best seller God: The Failed Hypothesis and The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning)
Non-Fiction, Science, Tech, History & Business
Neither a book for the fun-poking skeptic, nor the agnostic, or even the believer. The author fills his pages with a shockingly dull approach, given the book's fun subject matter. If this dry narrative wasn't bad enough, the author indulges in endless Condescension, NOT Smugness with all the fun that word implies, but the Condescension one expects from a long tenured grade-school teacher. This was so bad that I became so convinced that the publishers forced the writer to include a "How to enlighten people, without talking down" section at the end of each chapter which some times, some how, manages to be worse then the proceeding discussion.
(For the record, I'm a huge fan of Dawkins and Hitchen's books on Atheism. I love books on Skepticism.)
Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, this book will leave you questioning your own decision making ability, but not for the reasons the author hopes.
Yes. By listening to the opinions and philosophies of the author, it is possible to engage in conversation, either internally or with others. While there are many beliefs that are based upon popular misconceptions of facts, such as the "fake" moon landing, the author also takes on religion - any religion - and belief in God. He is a died in the wool skeptic, and approaches all topics from the skeptic's point of view. If you like the comedy of Bill Maher on HBO, you will understand the point of view of this author. The good part about listening to the book instead of reading it, I was able to interact with the opinions and statements made by the author.
The reading was very good and matter-of-fact in a way that allowed the author's philosophy to come through rather than the narrator's beliefs. It was an enjoyable read and a good introduction to the world view of others (I am a Christian and so disagree with some of the author's opinions, but did not find them to be objectionable.)
I tend to enjoy listening to books that expand my mind. Freakonomics, How the Mind works, other non-fiction books that allow me to learn are very enjoyable to me. The 50 Popular Beliefs was a very interesting book that, in my experience, revealed much more of the author's philosophy that actual facts - although there are many facts in the book that are irrefutable. I particularly enjoyed his use of the research of Randi ("The Amazing Randi") who has done a lot of research into ESP, Nostradamus, and psychics. Even if you are able to understand that charlatans exist in the paranormal world but think the phenomenon is viable, the research into how a skeptic discounts the experience is perceived by others is terrific. Since reviewing the Randi materials, I have been able to spot the things that psychics do that are not honest.
I learned a different point of world view, although I disagree with the religious portion of that view.
I agree with a lot of what this book says, since a lot of it is super obvious stuff that is hard to argue with (ghosts, astrology, Nostradamus, etc). But the book is just weak, its arguments simple, lacking in research or facts and stated very much like a strong opinion.
But the worst part, and I think the thing that kills a lot of the power and credibility ( for those who would disagree with its points) is the way it is written. At times it utterly drips with arrogance and reads like an auto biography. Whether the author intends it or not, and I expect not and expect he doesn't even realize that he is doing it, the book is relentlessly peppered with personal boasts (i.e. how worldly and well traveled I am, what a great outdoor adventurer, all the incredible reporting jobs I've had, etc). Then, with that sort of thing all over the place, he seems to really condescendingly lecture from a personal point of view. Granted, he probably can only speak for himself, as he'd not researched, doesn't quote anyone, hasn't done studies, so can only give his opinions. But the way he does it is just annoying. "I know better than to think whatever..." as he tries to shoot down some belief he disagrees with. And he always, always uses himself as the example "People think atheists are (fill in the blank) but I ( fill in a LONG lecture on how reasonable and wonderful and sound and compassionate or whatever his opinions are.
And there are places he just goes on and on about himself, his personal life, his tastes in television, the way he feels about various aspects of issues and life in a way that it is like he is writing an autobiography. But, well, unless someone is a fan of this guy, which I expect most who bought this book are not, and it was not their motivation, it is boring and very, very arrogant sounding. He comes accross, on the whole, as one of those people we probably have all met who are very pleased with themselves, and have lots of strong opinions they are not just going to share with you, but hold up as the way all should be, and lecture about nonstop. Perhaps that is unfair, but that was the feeling I had in listening to this thing, and given a chance, would prbably not want to have a chat or spend some time with the author.
At one point, when talking about the holocaust and the millions of people killed, he comes right out and claims "I probably view this very differently from most people"... So you are thinking, hmmm... what could be his personal view on this massive tragedy that sets him apart from most people. He goes on to declare he is deeply disturbed by it, feels guilt as a human that such a thing could happen, feels it is an awful tragedy and has nothing but bad feelings and compassion. Ok, so what is he saying as that sums up what most people I know think on the topic - No, Mr. Harrison, you are not so special, and you are not the only person who feels the systematic slaughter of millions of innocent people is an awful tragedy we should all recognize as such.
"It is important for readers to understand..." And that kind of opening all over the place followed by his personal opinions and his advice to emulate his personal thinking, makes the whole thing feel so intolerably sanctimonious and so much of it is presented as his personal feelings and ideas that we all really should wake up and espouse, you stupid, stupid, people you... I doubt he intends that tone, and think that is just how this guy is and how he writes. There are many who have written on topics like this, on skepticism, who are able to present ideas without sounding like that. It would have been a LOT better without all the personal ego stroking and biographical revelation, with a lot more citing of research, of other thinkers, or data. Again, he isn't that special - there are some really great minds out there who could get away with it, but they are also not the type to write this way.
He obviously feels strongly about a lot of things, and has a lot to say, but it really just feels that way - like a very opinionated guy lecturing and sounding off on his peeves and puffing himself up, rather than an actual examination of these topics, presenting of information, etc. Ok, fine, but it wasn't what I was thinking this book would be.
As I said, I don't disagree with his points, just am so off put by the annoying tone, the lack of anything to back up the arguments at times, and the relentless focus on himself. Too bad as it was a good idea for a book, just not well executed and probably for that reason won't go far in convincing any opponents on these topics.
What a monumental task! The explanations saying why these beliefs are false were sometimes illogical and flimsy. Religious beliefs were mentioned over and over again. The title should have been... 30+ Popular Beliefs About Religion That People Think Are True.
I don't think anyone can enjoy listening to a recitation of platitudes delivered in such a condescending tone and without any actual argument
It is not the first book written by the self-proclaimed sceptics that I've listened to. I think I've had enough of their shallow argumentation. I'll try and avoid listening to books written by the so-called sceptics in the future.
Performance was all right.
I've always believed that Americans did indeed land on the Moon in the late 1960-s and early 1970-s, but after listening to Guy Harrison arguing with those who do not believe it, I'm beginning to have my doubts.
It is irritating listening to an author who feels so morally superior to his opponents that he never even condescends to arguing with them on the merits of the issue. He kind of says, I am a sceptic so I know better, just take my word for it, and if you disagree you are a gullible idiot.
I know what this author is trying to prove. He wants you to believe that if there isn’t hard scientific and factual proof to back up a belief it can’t be true until there is this proof. He is a scientist and wants that hard proof. The problem is some beliefs are faith based and will likely never have this proof. I finally had to stop listening because while some of the beliefs he picked apart I think are ridiculous too others like God, Heaven and the afterlife are entrely faith based and I got irritated at his insistence that if it can’t be proven it doesn’t exist and I got a feeling of condesention from him. So, if you too believe there has to be hard scientific proof and that softer proof or simply faith based beliefs are bunk then this is the book for you. I feel like I wasted my money.
"Good intentions but very boooring"
Very predictable and repetitious, and not even entertaining. Don't waste your money as I did.
"Enjoyable in bite-sized chunks"
Guy's book was well narrated by Erik Synnesrvedt. I'm sure that if you have some very firmly held beliefs that you'll find some of the chapters challenging or even objectionable. However the author, whilst consistently promoting a scientific and skeptical approach, is nevertheless mindful that his readers may have different views and so he comes across as an educationalist rather than as a pugilist.
I recall that one reviewer felt that Guy's book confirmed his/her distancing from religion, however this really does depend on precisely what your belief system consists of. For example if you believe that Intelligent Design Theory is the last word on our origins then you will find this book most objectionable, if on the other hand you are comfortable with the notion that the Bible addresses the 'why' questions (Why are we here?) and leaves science to answer the 'how' questions (How did we get here?) then you will find this book both stimulating and thought provoking, even if you cannot come to the same conclusions.
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