The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe

How to Know What's Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake
Narrated by: Steven Novella
Length: 15 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,387 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An all-encompassing guide to skeptical thinking from podcast host and academic neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine Steven Novella and his SGU co-hosts, which Richard Wiseman calls "the perfect primer for anyone who wants to separate fact from fiction."

It is intimidating to realize that we live in a world overflowing with misinformation, bias, myths, deception, and flawed knowledge. There really are no ultimate authority figures - no one has the secret, and there is no place to look up the definitive answers to our questions (not even Google). 

Luckily, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is your map through this maze of modern life. Here Dr. Steven Novella - along with Bob Novella, Cara Santa Maria, Jay Novella, and Evan Bernstein - will explain the tenets of skeptical thinking and debunk some of the biggest scientific myths, fallacies, and conspiracy theories - from anti-vaccines to homeopathy, UFO sightings to N-rays. You'll learn the difference between science and pseudoscience, essential critical thinking skills, ways to discuss conspiracy theories with that crazy co-worker of yours, and how to combat sloppy reasoning, bad arguments, and superstitious thinking. 

So are you ready to join them on an epic scientific quest, one that has taken us from huddling in dark caves to setting foot on the moon? (Yes, we really did that.) Don't Panic! With The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, we can do this together. 

"Thorough, informative, and enlightening, The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe inoculates you against the frailties and shortcomings of human cognition. If this book does not become required reading for us all, we may well see modern civilization unravel before our eyes." (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

"In this age of real and fake information, your ability to reason, to think in scientifically skeptical fashion, is the most important skill you can have. Read The Skeptics' Guide Universe; get better at reasoning. And if this claim about the importance of reason is wrong, The Skeptics' Guide will help you figure that out, too." (Bill Nye)

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2018 Steven Novella, Bob Novella, Cara Santa Maria, Jay Novella, Evan Bernstein (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"A terrific book for anyone who wants a better understanding about the world around them and an essential guide to navigating modern life. The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe will help readers recognize pitfalls in reasoning, combat bad arguments and avoid superstitious thinking." (Simon Singh, skeptic and author of Fermat's Enigma)

"If everyone in the world were to read this book, we might just arrest humankind's depressing slide into truthlessness. Someone should put the Skeptics' Guide on the vaccination schedule." (Tim Minchin) 

"Empowering and illuminating, this thinker's paradise is an antidote to spreading anti-scientific sentiments. Readers will return to its ideas again and again." (Publishers Weekly)

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Buyer Beware

I am with others here who label this as being condescending. I happen to be someone who is scientifically trained, and also somewhat spiritual. As a person who grew up fundamentalist Christian and began rejecting those beliefs early, I agree with the debunking of some of the more laughable thoughts. That said, I think that these folks go a bit too far in disbelieving that some things might not be *possible*, or have explanations that we simply haven’t discovered yet. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know! A mere 2 centuries ago we didn’t possess the basic knowledge of bacteria and viruses that is now “common knowledge” today. What might we yet discover in centuries to come? I think it shows a special kind of hubris to thing we know everything significant about our “universe.” It’s a damn big place.

Still, the lessons in basic logic and logical fallacies are good ones, and I was immediately able to apply some info on hypnagogic and hypnopompic states to a frightening episode my elderly mother went through, and give her some much needed reassurance.

If you are currently a Christian or other strong believer, you may find this book offensive. If you are already a complete skeptic, you’ll love it. If you are somewhere in the middle — or just don’t care for condescension and belittling mixed in your education — your mileage may vary. Let the buyer beware!

17 people found this helpful

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Good, , even if you don't agree with everything

I'm a medical scientist who also happens to believe in God. Within the realm of modern science this book is spot-on. We will agree to disagree on whether there is absolute truth or not.

10 people found this helpful

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You are or are not Alone

Well done book. Some common knowledge already understood by those with a scientific background and some less common knowledge. Regardless of your interests or beliefs it’s hard to refute the challenge to be just a bit more skeptical. I didn’t agree with 100% of the Authors points of view (close but not 100%) but then again they wouldn’t necessarily want me to. The book deals with scientific skepticism which makes it easier to establish some ground rules. Works very well as audiobook.

63 people found this helpful

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A comprehensive guide for a scientific skeptic

This was one of the books I waited with utmost anticipation and so glad to get a chance to read it finally. I have been a long time SGU listener (almost 10 years), and they have been a major inspiration for me to teach myself critical thinking (I still do) and initiate a grassroots skeptical movement in Turkey along with a website as well as a top podcast of our own. So naturally, when I heard the team was coming up with an actual book, I was very excited and pre-ordered it immediately.

Steve and SGU team did a great job of compiling the basic building blocks of scientific skepticism and critical thinking. The book starts with the introduction to scientific skepticism and why it is important, continues to explore the major factors that contribute and distort our understanding of the world, major reasoning and cognitive faults we all make/have, the science/pseudoscience demarcation problem. Then it goes on to give some real-world examples to allow the reader to practice what they learned about critical thinking skills in the earlier chapters. It talks about historical events that claimed to be "extraordinary" and turned out to be not so, some existing pseudoscience out there and why those claims do not hold water and personal experiences of the contributors in the domain of scientific skepticism and critical thinking.
In the last section, there is a very comprehensive reference list. The book has ALL the major references it mentions along the chapters in one place and in great detail, and even that is alone is such a great resource.

The language of the book is very clear, easy to read & understand with lots of examples. It is very well organized the earlier chapters prepare the reader for the later ones that provide more examples.

Overall this is a great book to introduce a person to critical thinking & scientific skepticism. it explains why this is an important topic, why people should be mindful of how they reach to conclusions, make decisions, even how they argue with each other and how to try to convince others.

For me, this will be a great comprehensive resource to use when I need to explain someone a basic concept with great examples. I did not learn anything new by reading it since I knew pretty much every concept described in the book due to immersing myself into the literature of scientific skepticism and critical thinking in the past years, but despite that, I loved to book for its comprehensiveness, clarity and being an overall resource for every fundamental concept in scientific skepticism.

Actually, let me re-phrase myself: "I did not learn any new information from the book, but as usual I learned a lot on how to communicate and articulate these things from Steve and his narration style, as usual. He is such a great communicator, an aspiration for all of us."

I will keep this book as a fundamental resource in my library and definitely can see myself gifting to many people in the future. What a great tool to help us to spread the news!

Thank you SGU team, it has been a pleasure to read & listen this!

#Skepticism #CriticalThinking #Pseudoscience #Science #Reason #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

63 people found this helpful

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Demon Haunted World 2.0

There’s A LOT of meat in this book.

It serves as a GREAT introduction to scientific skepticism and critical thinking that we need now more than ever in this age where we retreat to tribalism and carelessly employ sloppy thinking leaving no room for conversation, compromise, or thoughtful and sincere dialogue. This book is a primer to help the reader avoid overthrowing reason and common sense with ideology and fear.

We, as a culture, are in desperate need of a course correction of the mind. This book is a great start to understand how the mind works and how it synthesizes and generates truths, deceives itself and fortifies falsehoods. We have always lived in a world full of fake, but only recently has it been normalized and expected.

Here is a great start to help maneuver the currents of this new world of data inundation. It also serves as a foundation on how to spot bullshit and refrain from retreating to our cultural bubbles. It's a great introduction on how to open your mind and evaluate new information based on evidence and merit rather than seeking out information that conforms to your sacred beliefs.

There is a way out this. Using our brain lazily got us in this mess. Perhaps employing some critical thinking and using our brain skillfully will get us out.

Should be mandatory reading for all high schoolers.

36 people found this helpful

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An excellent companion to the podcast.

It's hard to give this book the positive review it deserves without making it sound like a self-help book. It's really not written like one. But it's not about the science of bigfoot or aliens either. It is written instead as a toolkit and guidebook on how to avoid the pitfalls that lurk in our every-day modes of thinking. It details the what, how, and why of minds led astray from disciplined thought and the strongest possible basis in reality. And it encourages us to find those errors in the arguments we make to ourselves, as well as those we share with or hear from others. So to the degree that they avoid pendantry, the authors have, if by accident, created a great self-help book, hidden in a book about understanding science and the human mind.

Novella's reading was about 10 percent slower than the usual conversational tone he uses in his podcast, but that was easy to correct for with the Audible app. As a long-time SGU listener, I found the chapters from the Rogues and the interview at the end of the audiobook especially enjoyable.

28 people found this helpful

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I wanted to like it…

I’m a long time fan of the SGU podcast and Dr Novella’s blog, but this was nowhere near as good at holding the reader’s attention.
It didn’t help that Dr Novella’s reading was a tad slow (adjust to 1.25x for a more natural talking speed).
It has the tone of a dry text book without any hooks to captivate the reader and make the points memorable.
I feel it has good breadth of solid skeptical topics, but just isn’t very engaging.
I am hoping it picks up in the second half, but it is only my fondness for the podcast that is keeping me going.

2 people found this helpful

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These guys are supposed to be big time

Like many scientists, these guys throw around a lot of big words and crazy ideas that in the end don’t add up to much.

It kind of angers me that these authors make such big promises about their abilities of understanding and in the end it turns out to be just a big nothing burger.

I know that Christians have a bad habit of writing books that try to give us a clue about reality and happiness and so forth.

But it appears that even scientists and materials are in the game of writing books and making big promises and in the end it’s just a lot of hot air. I’m very disappointed in this book. I’m going to see if I can’t get my money back.

5 people found this helpful

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Condescending & ridiculing to those who differ

The book makes its point in a condescending and ridiculing manner to those who differ in their opinion as if it got the universe all figured out (i.e. it suggests people are stupid for believing there could be life elsewhere, because some people mistake airplane lights for aliens). As if science is opposed to the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Maybe the reader deserves a more scientific reason supporting the book's view rather than the shallow stereotypical reasons.

The book supports its argument by painting the opposite view using an exaggerated form as if the objective of the book is to convince the reader that its view "sounds" right instead of actually being scientifically right. (i.e. ridiculing people who think too much showering could harm their skin bacterial ecosystem because some people advocate for not showering for a month ... ) So now we are left with only two options, showing daily or not showering for a month? How about a balance? or how about the scientific reasons that showering daily does not affect the bacterial ecosystem?

I didn't like the "know it all tone" of the book from the start but I kept on reading till the end in case the tone could change at some point but it did not.

Some humble tone could serve this book well. After all it claims to help guide us to "What's Really Real" and that's not trivial task. Science does not fear the opposite opinion. Hence no need to exaggerate or ridicule to prove a point.

271 people found this helpful

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Must Read

This should be assigned to every student in the country, critical thinking is more important now than ever.

30 people found this helpful