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This book identifies eight key mechanisms that can transform a set of ideas into a psychological flytrap. The author suggests that, like the black holes of outer space, from which nothing, not even light, can escape, our contemporary cultural landscape contains numerous intellectual black-holes—belief systems constructed in such a way that unwary passers-by can similarly fThis book identifies eight key mechanisms that can transform a set of ideas into a psychological flytrap. The author suggests that, like the black holes of outer space, from which nothing, not even light, can escape, our contemporary cultural landscape contains numerous intellectual black-holes—belief systems constructed in such a way that unwary passers-by can similarly find themselves drawn in. While such self-sealing bubbles of belief will most easily trap the gullible or poorly educated, even the most intelligent and educated of us are potentially vulnerable. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers have fallen in, never to escape. This witty, insightful critique will help immunize readers against the wiles of cultists, religious and political zealots, conspiracy theorists, promoters of flaky alternative medicines, and various other nutcases by clearly setting out the tricks of the trade by which such insidious belief systems are created and maintained....

Title : Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole
Author :
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ISBN : 9781616144111
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 271 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole Reviews

  • Mike Puma
    2019-04-24 04:24

    Interesting in a textbook sort of way. Law’s interests lie in ‘intellectual black holes,’ those systems of belief which defy reason and thwart discourse that challenges those beliefs; his goal with this book is to, “help immunize readers against…some key tricks of the trade by which such self-sealing bubbles of belief are made.” All well and good, however, Beyond Belief will, at times, sound more like a diatribe against some of those beliefs (especially religion) and less like the rhetoric/logic/debate/critical thinking text one might expect. The downside of using so many religious examples is that Law might lose the religious reader before he/she arrives at a point where they might see themselves in the examples provided and said readers might too quickly write this volume off as another Hitchens/Dawkins/Harris anti-religious screed. That’d be a shame.Law proceeds to define eight strategies which thwart or undermine discussion, attempts to explain ‘what is wrong’ with those strategies, and provides examples of their usage. Some readers (this reader) would have preferred the traditional logic/rhetoric name for the types of strategy being discussed to Law’s renaming them; he does, for instance, mention apophasis, but does not discuss equivocation as such. I mention this only because the text might have been more useful to students.Oddly, Law regularly attempts to distance himself from appearing to bash ideas in favor of speaking to the logical/rhetorical devices at play, i.e. he often takes a sort of ambivalent stance toward the idea, while the rhetorical defense is pretty thoroughly trounced, almost necessarily making the idea itself questionable.Among the things I found interesting was a discussion of ‘the H.A.D.D. hypothesis’— a hyperactive agency detector device—a possible evolutionary explanation of the prevalence of believing in things unseen (gods, spirits, contact with the dead, etc.). In a nutshell, this ‘agency detector device’ kicks in when someone hears something behind him or sees a shadow cross over them or in any way senses the presence of an agent that could be harmful—natural selection favors inheritable traits, and traits that keep one safe endure. Attempting to be Switzerland on HADD, Law says simply there might be something to it. Discussion of evidentiary evil and the point at which it becomes gratuititous (skeptical theism) is frequently visited. And, in what could be a final sort of insult to Christians, Law includes a section called The Tapescrew Letters: Letters from a Senior to a Junior Guru, in which, an older aunt, Tapescrew, advises her nephew, Woodworm, on capturing and retaining his first mind. C.S. Lewis fans don’t have to be concerned with a compelling novella here, but some might find using Lewis in this way is, well, unholy.Further info at

  • Erroll Treslan
    2019-05-05 03:13

    A must read for anyone interested in the pursuit of truth. The author is a former postman who went on to attain his doctorate in philosophy. He now lectures at the University of London. His interests include philosophy of religion from an atheist perspective. In this provocatively titled new work, Law examines the strategies employed by proponents of ridiculous belief systems such as homeopathy, conspiracy theorists and some (but not all) religions. These strategies include “Playing the Mystery Card”, “Piling Up the Anecdotes” and what he calls “Pseudoprofundity”. The best parts of the book include discussion of the “Going Nuclear” strategy in which the bullsh*tter employs radical scepticism to attack all beliefs (after all, how do we know we aren’t all brains in vats?) in order to deflect legitimate criticism of their crazy beliefs. Law also skewers Young Earth Creationists (YECs) who artfully attempt to immunize their beliefs from falsification. In his chapter “But it Fits and The Blunderbluss”, he describes how YECs answer the question: How did Noah feed all his animals while they were at sea? Answer: they hibernated. How did polar bears and possums make it to Noah’s Ark? Answer: There were no separate continents and the force of the Flood broke them apart. Law continues by explaining how the same ad hoc manoeuvres employed by YECs could be applied by someone who insists that dogs are actually spies from Venus. Faced with the objection that dogs can’t speak, the believer could suggest that dogs just choose to hide their ability to speak from humans. When presented with the fact that no life can be observed nor sustained on Venus, the believer can respond by suggesting that the dogs live in deep underground bunkers ... and so on and so on.

  • Book
    2019-04-29 06:13

    Believing BS: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole by Stephen Law"Believing BS" is an informative book that identifies eight key mechanisms that can lead ideas into an intellectual abyss. Philosopher, educator and accomplished author, Stephen Law provides an interesting book that will help immunize readers against the follies of poor thinking. It's an expose of popular rhetorical tricks used to defend BS belief system. The author provides many practical examples and shows us quite clearly how to avoid being sucked into these intellectual black holes. This helpful 271-page book includes the following eight chapters (mechanisms): 1. Playing the Mystery Card, 2. "But it Fits! and The Blunderbus, 3. Going Nuclear, 4. Moving the Semantic Goalposts, 5. "I Just Know!", 6. Pseudoprofundity, 7. Piling Up the Anecdotes, and 8. Pressing Your Buttons.Positives:1. A well-researched and accessible book. The author has a pleasant, engaging style.2. Despite the provocative title, I found the book to be fair, reasonable and even-handed.3. Succeeds in achieving its main goal of providing readers with intellectual tools to defend against intellectual black holes ("systems constructed in such a way that unwary passerby can find themselves similarly drawn in").4. Explains eight key strategies in detail by providing illustrations that clearly show how they are applied and what's wrong with it.5. Includes many religious examples such as Young Earth Creationism and Christian Science. Young Earth Creationism debunked with just the following: "What of the seasonal layers of ice found at the poles, the drilled-out cores of which reveal a seasonal history dating back hundreds of thousands of years?"6. Provides plausible explanations on why we are predisposed in believing in invisible agents. As an example, the Hypersensitive Agent Detection Device (H.A.D.D.). "Thus evolution will select for an inheritable tendency to not just detect--but overdetect--agency."7. The problem of evil strikes again. "Even if God had to allow some evil for the sake of certain greater goods, surely he could have no reason to allow quite so much." "In any case, what about the countless generations of humans that suffered before the Bible was written?"8. Many interesting philosophical questions, "Is it true that beliefs about supernatural agents, gods, powers and other phenomena are essentially immune to scientific refutation? Find out.9. The scientific method, always a worthwhile discussion. The value of other approaches like philosophy to make reasonable refutations. "What a scientific theory requires if it is to be credible is not merely consistency with the evidence but confirmation by the evidence--the stronger the confirmation, the better."10. Good quotes always add value to a book, "It is important to stress that what we are looking at here is not a mere absence of evidence for the claim that crystals have such effects, but rather that it is some positive evidence of the absence of any such effects."11. I like the concept of genuine confirmation of scientific theory. "The theory must make predictions that are: 1) clear and precise, 2) surprising, and 3) true."12. Going Nuclear as a last ditch strategy to avoid defeat that lays waste to every position. The two main variants of "Going Nuclear": skeptical and relativist. Many good examples.13. Effing the ineffable. "What I'm objecting to is the unjustified and partisan use of this suggestion to immunize Theism against powerful counterarguments, while at the same time allowing a degree of effability whenever, say, there appears to be something positive to be said in its favor."14. Believing something in perspective. "Perhaps the most obvious way in which you might be justified in believing something is if you have good evidence that what you believe is true."15. Pseudoprofundity exposed. "Mockery may be both useful and legitimate if we can show that it is deserved."16. Using anecdotes instead of significant evidence to support a supernatural claim. "What would be more impressive is if, say, after being prayed for, someone's amputated leg grew back." Agreed.17. The power of suggestion. "Expectation strongly shapes perception." Many great examples.18. Belief-shaping mechanisms...brainwashing. The five core beliefs behind it.19. A very good summary of the eight mechanisms and the main nine examples.20. Notes included and linked.Negatives:1. The book is overall a bit uneven. That is, some topics get the royal treatment while others get the gloss over. As an example, using mockery as a tool. I was hoping for a little more depth on a tool I believe is underrated in its effectiveness.2. I didn't really care for "The Tapescrew Letters"; sure it brings everything together but it didn't do much for me.3. No formal bibliography.In summary, I really enjoyed reading this book. Law succeeds in providing the public with an accessible tool to defend against intellectual black holes. He defines new terms well and provides many examples that clearly illustrate belief-shaping mechanisms in practice. Perhaps a couple of missed opportunities, the power of ridicule seems to be a very effective tool that received little ink. That being said, this turned out be an informative and helpful book. I recommend it!Further recommendations: "The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism" by A.C. Grayling, "Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism" by Richard Carrier, "The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule" and "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths" by Michael Shermer, "A Rulebook for Arguments" by Anthony Weston, "The Philosophy of Science" by Samir Okasha, "42 Fallacies" by Michael C. LaBossiere, "50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True" by Guy P. Harrison, "Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction" by Eugenie C. Scott, "The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood" by David R. Montgomery, "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer" by Bart D. Ehrman, and "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us" by Victor Stenger.

  • Tucker
    2019-05-11 05:23

    We want to be rational, says Stephen Law. We also find ourselves drawn, for whatever reason, toward Intellectual Black Holes, such as believing in supernatural beings or medicines that aren’t scientifically proven to work. To deal with the cognitive dissonance of our self-understanding, we find strategies to help ourselves believe that we “are not being nearly as irrational as reason might otherwise suggest”. (p. 19) He outlines eight strategies. I am using one of these strategies, which I paraphrase below, if I…(1) …appeal to the claim that “God works in mysterious ways.” I would make such a statement to claim that my inability to explain what I’m talking about should not be counted as a strike against my theory.(2) …launch an overzealous attempt to force evidence to fit my ridiculous theory.(3) …backpedal and try to escape upon noticing that I am losing an argument, and if I try to make this escape specifically by pointing out that no one can really know anything (radical skepticism) or that different people have different truths and we can’t judge or critique each other’s beliefs, after all (what is commonly referred to, although I dislike this term, as a type of “relativism”).(4) …change the meanings of my established terms in the middle of an argument. For example, if I say, “Everyone should believe in God,” do I intend to demonstrate that a godlike being exists or do I intend to advocate for the adoption of religious behaviors? There is possible ambiguity in what it means to “believe in” something or someone as well as in what is meant by “God.”(5) …attribute my beliefs to some special intuition that I do not identify.(6) …cloak my beliefs in aphoristic statements that seem profound but, once unpacked, are revealed to be nonsense.(7) …employ a list of anecdotes that seem to support my position instead of a logical argument or rigorous data to prove my point.(8) …use brainwashing techniques (“isolation, control, uncertainty, repetition, and emotional manipulation,” as the author quoted from Kathleen Taylor’s analysis).While I basically agreed with the author’s ideas, I found this presentation a little incomplete for the following reasons.The author seemed to have multiple focuses. Sometimes he spoke about the psychological mechanisms that enable people to maintain their own foolish beliefs. Other times, he spoke about the rhetorical strategies that are used in (un)persuasive arguments of the caliber one finds in a college dormitory. These internal psychological mechanisms and external rhetorical strategies must be related, as the arguments we have had recited to us and that we continue to recite to ourselves mentally will be similar to the arguments we choose to recite to others to propagate the worldview. This is my own observation. I don’t think it was in the book. I think an acknowledgement something like this could have more strongly informed the book’s structure. Of the eight strategies given above, each seems to have an internal and external meaning. It would have been useful to break down when each was being talked about.Furthermore, some the eight strategies seem overlapping, and they were not assigned any particular order. I suggest it may be possible to impose an order such as “stages of self-awareness” or “stages of sophistication in persuasive ability.” For example, when just starting out, I might say that I “just know” that God exists (5); when someone challenges me about the world not appearing to be designed or maintained by a benevolent God, I might say that God’s reasons aren’t the same as human reasons and can’t be known, which means I am denying the validity of the objection rather than answering it (1); and then I might walk away, saying that, since no one can know anything about God anyway (contradicting my own original point!), atheism has no special advantage over theism, so there’s no reason to argue. (3) Realizing I performed very badly in that debate and prepared to make a more studied effort, I might go home and spend time developing more extensive arguments which unfortunately remain bad (2, 7) and resort to an alternative definition of God whenever I find myself unable to prove my original claim (4). If I elevate my bad arguments to a leadership level, I might pre-package some aphorisms for future use (6) or study how to brainwash my followers (8). When presented in this order, I start to see one potential narrative of how false beliefs receive layers of justification and "hardening," but this is my own interpretative work, not a sequence that was provided in the book.As a side note to clarify the choice of title, Stephen Law is aware of Harry Frankfurt's definition of "bullshit" as something one says without caring whether it is true. Law challenges that definition, saying that "bullshit artists" often do have sincerely held beliefs but in that case they have simply managed to fool even themselves. I think the difference is that the former type could call themselves a "bullshit artist" because they are aware they are making up stories while the latter type would never use this as a term of self-reference because they believe themselves to be making factual statements.

  • Tony Heyl
    2019-05-16 00:17

    I was interested in this based on seeing it somewhere else. Originally I thought it would be more about what people believe and why they believe it and how those "bullshit" beliefs could be countered. Instead it was Stephen Law's personal ideas on why people believe nonsense and how that can be combated generally. The writing is meandering and repetitive. The whole thing could be summed up in 20 pages instead of 200. It was an easy read, but it also wasn't very interesting. The author started by giving reasons for not believing in a Christian god, but then used that to say why not believe in "God" generally, without ever mentioning any other religion, as if Christianity is bullshit, but Islam, Hinduism, etc are not. Now, I'm not saying any of those beliefs are or or not silly, but it seemed to needlessly attack one set of beliefs while ignoring all others.There are citations, but generally, the whole book just seems very simple yet written by someone who seems to find his own writing profound. Not very interesting.

  • Anthony
    2019-04-22 01:10

    This book attempts to present a number of logical fallacies, and other shady tactics, in an accessible manner. It fails to do so. While it tries to cover concepts which can be hard to wrap your brain around, I think the biggest failing is the use of poor phrasing.Another problem is that the author relies too heavily on shooting down religious ideas, such as Creationism. I am actually an atheist myself, but I felt that he could have easily found more examples in other areas to convey his points, and should have spent more time trying to express himself clearly.The books does contain some good information, but I would suggest looking for other books about critical thinking instead of this one.

  • Peter
    2019-05-02 01:27

    better than I expected, i was warned it was bitmof a diatribe against religion. not true, religions merely fail under rational inquiry

  • Paul M.
    2019-05-04 06:26

    I read this book not to win any religious debate, but as a facilitator and dialogue mapper, to be able to better understand patterns of conversation and how my capture of stakeholder rationale can be improved.I found the book pretty fun and educational. I liked the writing style with its subtle and not-so-subtle use of sarcasm and occasional tutorials as how you two can become the next "guru". The conclusion chapter is definitely the best one of the book, and could have done with greater expansion.Some chapters offered practical approaches to counteract your newly formed bullshit radar, but others just taught you to recognise bullshit for what it is. I think there is a missed opportunity for readers to further develop their bullshit defeating kung-fu tools at times.On balance it was an easy read but some bits get a little trippy (as tends to happen with philosophical arguments). Since it focuses on religious arguments, it is likely to put many people off. This is a pity, because I feel what is written here has much greater applicability...

  • Paul
    2019-05-15 06:24

    I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. The material is useful, but has more padding than I needed. The book could also use some closer editing.Whereas I found that using a parallel argument for an evil god (mimicking the stereotypical argument for a good god) to be thought provoking, I found the parallel rewriting of C.S. Lewis' _Screwtape Letters_ to be just a little embarrassing.

  • Paul Jones
    2019-05-03 00:10

    I was hoping this would be a book that looked into good arguments (literal and logical) and not rely on anecdotes.The author claims to have an open mind on most things but not on poorly constructed arguments built on anecdotes...which it backs up with anecdotes.

  • Frank
    2019-05-21 03:34

    Pop philosophy, but still not bad so long as you don't expect too much.

  • Jason
    2019-05-05 03:25

    My favorite part was when Robert Forster beat the crap out of Maximilian Schell! Great book.

  • Ali Haidar
    2019-05-19 01:29

    books like this are really empowering . it helps inoculate you from the illusory "reasonableness" of the ideas of con men, liars and cultists, and shows you how they trick even smart mostly rational people into believing irrational things . a must read for those on the quest to find the truth of reality

  • David
    2019-04-28 00:16

    Not at all what I was expecting. The author's writing style was hard for me to get through, but I believe the book accomplishes what it sets out to do: How does one identify when someone is professing baloney. And that is to arm the reader with a framework by which he or she can identify and reason with unreasonable belief systems.The first two chapters were intellectually complex with philosophical and logical reasoning. This was a partial turn off, but I found it very interesting for this and one other reason. The second being the way that fundamental and/or evangelical Christianity promotes its beliefs are identified and discussed. If I got it correctly, basic scientific reasoning can be used to argue against "young earth creationism". Do not underestimate the simplicity of how I have stated this; he goes into vastly more detail in analyzing and arguing the questions about what is 'true'.Be forewarned, I sense the author has a thing against religion in general.The last few chapters are more straightforward. In one later chapter he talks about how cults use a system of five techniques to "brainwash" individuals with "isolation, control, uncertainty, repetition and emotion." I do not remember having these techniques spelled out for me previously, but it was fascinating and horrifying to read in his "Tapescrew Letters" (yes, it is a takeoff on C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters) how religious organizations often try to take control of someone's life. I have had friends that got sucked into cults before, and I believe we should all be aware of the techniques that are used here! I am thinking of my children and yours too.I used this framework twice yesterday. Once when two Jehovah's witnesses came to the door yesterday and tried to pry into my emotional state, and again later on when I heard an analyst on the radio talking about how every abortion prevents the net gain of $500,000 in the overall GDP. (Because of course this helps put people to work and pays down the national debt. Right.)A lot of what this book has to state is common sense for many, so it may not be worth your time. If you find yourself interested in the verity in belief systems in religion, politics, and other issues in which there is no obvious consensus, the framework Stephen Law sets out may be useful for you.

  • Andrew Skretvedt
    2019-05-05 07:26

    "The Tapescrew Letters," Stephen Law's short tongue-in-cheek parody of C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters," should be moved from the back end of this book to the very front, as a new introduction. "Tapescrew" really is "Screwtape" with a perspective shift. The question any thoughtful person, religious or otherwise, amenable to the message in Lewis' "Screwtape" should take to heart, after walking through Law's glass door into "Tapescrew" would be: If it should be the case that I am the unwitting "patient" here, how would I know if I'm being screwtaped or tapescrewed?Stated another way, how do fans of "Screwtape" know they're not just being tapescrewed, even if such meddling agents have only noblest and most gentle intentions at heart?Law maps the landscape and introduces the reader to eight common forms used to justify various intellectual black holes, making them seem respectable and worthy of your attention (even your strident defense against analysis at the hands of people the likes of Law himself). The lessons are applicable not just to religious questions, but all manner of suspected pseudoscience and pseudo-intellectualism.I think the book will resonate and be most useful to people who are already suspecting they may be near or in an intellectual black hole and are questioning the fundamentals they've been taught. Those who are totally neutral and haven't engaged with any particularly contentious issues before may also get something from the book which would be valuable in their future. I am pessimistic about its utility for those who are in a black hole and find themselves convinced. Most of these, it seems to me, if found reading this book will quickly come to set it down again before the challenge to their established unthinking becomes too great.

  • Kevin
    2019-05-16 03:36

    Law's book isn't bullshit itself but it does smell a little. not because it's dishonest or trying to sell something cheap but because it's just a laundry list of logical fallacies that preaches to the skeptical choir. it's very title will put off those that might be the most "in need" of learning about these concepts and practices.Law attempts to speak to an audience unversed in philosophy or critical thinking methods, he just comes across as pedestrian, pedantic, and authoritarian in its arguments. This also means that he almost waters things down too much for his would-be lay readers, sounding too colloquial and even poser-hipsterish at times. In addition to this, his refutations come out as statements of solid, immovable fact with little to no room for debate despite this ostensibly being a lesson in logic and critical thinking.the only truly original and interesting piece of this book occurs at the very end with the section titled “The Tapescrew Letters.” based on CS Lewis Screwtape letters, Law attempts to parade the inner workings of an overtly, self-aware grifting cult before our eyes in a kind of satire of same. It seems poorly done, even so, as he trots out nearly every “black hole” he covered in the previous section of the book and uses a skeptic as a kind of savior., if you have never been exposed to logical fallacies or would like to understand more about them, this is the book for you. otherwise, it's meh.

  • Silvio
    2019-04-30 00:21

    A very precise manual on the techniques used to obscure meaningWhat is it an intellectual black hole? Which are the usual techniques to lure you into one?One by one Stephen Law dissects each tool of the snake oil sales people of emotions and woo: priests, gurus and all of the same sort. With clear definitions and examples the author explains what you have to look around and listen when the alarms sound off: you are approaching an intellectual black hole. From religion to homeopathy , and from new age to ideologies, Stephen Law is very careful in position that the main problem is about the methods: that should put you in alert. He keeps the door open that however improbable, yes, last night you saw an alien, but most likely it was an illusion and because it is so unlike that we have been visited by aliens, better you have good arguments and proof. But if you use the techniques explained here: well my friend , your position does not hold. Period.Pilling up anecdotes , going nuclear, moving goal posts, see it fits, brainwashing, all in detail.Your survival guide in the fight for reasonable ideas: to carry out there in the jungle of religions, gurus, new age woo, post modernism relativism and all the others you will come along

  • Charles Lindsey
    2019-05-20 06:09

    This book is a lively excursion into the philosophical arguments people use for their beliefs. It reads like a primer for late-night dorm room bull sessions (hence the title?). You'd like it if you relish the thought of demolishing an opponent and getting the last word on him. I suppose it would be a good curative if you've been afflicted with "the wit of the staircase," as the French say -- wishing you'd known how to counter some glib confounder. If you think philosophy itself is more or less **The Word That Must Not Be Named, At Least According to Amazon's Stupid Algorithm that Won't Let You Cite the Name of the Very Book They Sold You**, you'll care less about mastering the philosophical flourishes.I'd rather read about how science puts the lie to nonsense than waste time on people who spin air castles about "what is reality?" and "what is truth?" and "how can anybody know anything?" Save it for ancient Athens. Still, the final chapter of this book, a parody of "The Screwtape Letters" written from the point of view of a religious bullslinger, is an unexpected pleasure and worth reading.

  • Jim Razinha
    2019-05-04 04:20

    Well composed, excellent coverage of critical knowledge, this will go on the "to re-read" shelf. I'm also adding to to the Must read homeschool list. Law does a very good job illustrating the traps and describing how to avoid, dismantle and negate them. The composition is dense, and I set it aside several times in order to digest the text (do note that nothing here is new, but it is presented in a rich narrative that can be off-putting for those who don't play in the debate sandbox every day). Law does put his perspective on the subject and does a nice job collecting the entire theme in a bonus narrative in the form of C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. I wonder if fans of Lewis will see the irony...Religion is the target of pretty much each of the trap examples, but Law is careful not to actually say something is BS (for example, he offers that while "psychic" anything is probably BS, someday, someone might actually be able to prove the "ability"). Still, the recipients of the analyses will likely take offense.

  • Gordon
    2019-04-27 03:29

    I liked the basic premise of the book and indeed it reminded me a lot of theories/practices etc that I had encountered before so in that regard it was a good refresher course. Of course this book is aimed at those that perhaps haven't been in the debating team, studied psychologu/sociology etc and I think it does a pretty decent job of aiming at that market. That being said it kind of flogs the same basic theme over and over again and I almost stoped reading it at a few points so it could benefit from a freshening of ideads and examples when making points.It does do what it says on the tin though so if you want to avoid getting sucked inot an intellectual blackhole or if perhaps you feel the need to create one (possibly if you are starting your own religion) then this should be on your essential reading list.

  • K
    2019-05-21 04:38

    Stephen Law examines the methodology by which someone can be drawn into an intellectual black hole. Intellectual black holes are the kind of situations where our critical capacities take a step back, and 'bullshit' replaces them. Homeotherapy, religious cults, and totallitarian regimes are prime examples of intellectual black holes. Don't be fooled by the polemic title. Stepben Law is rarely confrontational and his tone remains friendly and modest throughout the book.The tactics employed in order to corrupt our ability to reason properly are several and some of the most important are examined in the book. It's not a deep sociological analysis of the phenomenon, simply a concise overview of several methods and their practical applications. But I would certainly give a copy of this book to someone who believes in 'bullshit.'

  • Bruce Johnson
    2019-05-12 07:19

    Thinking critically is an incredibly important skill, one that is completely glossed over in today's education system. When we are constantly inundated with advertisements and news stories that have an agenda, the ability to discern 'likely true' from 'likely false' is a valued one. In Believing Bullshit, Law talks about the different logical fallacies and psychological tactics that are applied by the media (and this is not a left/right thing...both sides of the ideological spectrum are guilty). Hopefully, awareness of the strategies employed can help people cut through to 'bull' to get to the nuggets of truth that are out there.

  • Jari Pirhonen
    2019-05-13 01:33

    The author introduces eight mechanisms which can be used to suck people in "Intellectual Black Holes". These mechanisms are used by cults, conspiracy theorists, self help industry, religions, politicians, etc.Mechanisms are: "playing the mystery card", "but it fits", "going nuclear", "moving the semantic goalposts", "I just know", "pseudoprofundity", piling up the anecdotes" and "pressing your buttons". Understanding these mechanisms helps to immunize you against intellectual snake oil.

  • Marc
    2019-04-30 05:10

    I liked this book; Law summarizes the various slippery ways that pseudo/non-scientists use to evade critical questions about their "theories". It is a book of philosophy for D-- ... beginners. Some might consider it condescending and in some places it could be considered such. But philosophical arguments tend to be very abstract and logic laden. The language tends to be difficult at times and Law clearly tries to make some of the essential arguments more accessible. I think he gets the right tone, if sometimes it reads almost juvenile.

  • Noah Richardson
    2019-04-20 02:14

    this book mainly targets young-earth creationism and a few other christian tenets. it is worded very academically, and it's more like a textbook than a novel. very brain-heavy in terms of thinking critically about how people mean/say what they say/mean, in the Young Earth Creationist's parlance.on the back of the book a reviewer wrote that the right people will probably not read this book. and it is true, what i've garnered from that book will help me immensley not to get 'sucked into an intellectual black hole'.

  • Mary Baldwin
    2019-05-18 05:16

    I thought I'd misread the blurb of this book until I read some other reviews. It seems I wasn't the only one that felt it was a bit too heavily focused on religion as a source of bullshit artists. True, there are some excellent religious examples for some of the 'intellectual black holes' outlined; but it became very dogmatic and dull even though the principles of bullshit were good.I'd recommend 'You are not so smart' over this book, it's far superior. But if you're writing or researching religious cults or fanaticism you'll probably find this more stimulating than I did.

  • Stephen Simpson
    2019-05-13 00:31

    An enjoyable read, but it's really more about the faulty arguments/logic that people will use to defend bullshit. So, "Defending Bullshit" would have likely been a better and more accurate title. It doesn't attempt to address why/how people believe bunk, nor does it really deliver on "how not to get sucked into an intellectual black hole", but it does give a good rundown on poor reasoning and logic.

  • J.P.
    2019-05-21 08:10

    It's a good book. I did expect more from it though. I expected it to cover more on logic, misuses, misunderstandings of it, abuses of logic etc.,. It's main target was religion & teased at showing the fallacies in conspiracy theories. It's a good book & would probably be better suited to someone on their way out of religion or fresh from being out of it. It's not a bad book, I just thought there was going to be more to it.

  • Sam Burns
    2019-05-09 08:10

    The great thing about books by Stephen Law are their accessibility and this is no different. Good examples make light-work of some logical fallacies. One thing that will happen whilst you read this book is that you will realise that you have used some of the techniques in the past without knowing it. You will be a better thinker and arguer for the sake of this interesting read. Definitely recommended if you enjoy debate.

  • Joe
    2019-05-19 04:14

    Lots of great information. However, the copy is in desperate need of editing. Riddled with spelling mistakes, missing words and repetitions of the exact same text in adjacent paragraphs. Despite all the errors, I still think it's a good buy. I will definitely use this as a resource in my battle against religious bullshit.