Skeptoid 2: More Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena by Brian Dunning

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Skeptoid 2: More Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena by Brian Dunning

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: A collection of short articles debunking and analysing a variety of dubious, pseudo-scientific, un-scientific and downright loony ideas, beliefs and myths that found their way into the media and pop culture. Readable if a bit random, it will entertain and educate in equal measures.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 274 Date: September 2008
Publisher: CreateSpace
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1440422850

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Brian Dunning is the author responsible for a series of weekly podcasts debunking and analysing a variety of dubious, pseudo-scientific, un-scientific and downright loony ideas, claims and myths common or persistent in the pop (and not so pop) culture. Skeptoid 2 is essentially a written version of those podcasts, a collection of fifty pieces of which many can be also read or listened to at his website.

This is both the weakness and the strength of the book: a strength, because it gives many short texts on a wide variety of subjects, and virtually everybody will be able to find something of interest there. Most people will also find something genuinely educational and enlightening.

From The Detoxification Myth to How to Argue with a Creationist to Super Sized Fast Food Phobia to conspiracy theories surrounding the collapse of the WTC, the variety of subjects means that reader's reactions will vary from shocked if not outraged disbelief to well, I knew it all along to surely, nobody could possibly believe in THAT.

But being a collection is also a major weakness of Skeptoid 2, as the items included appear to be pretty random. Apart from reinforcing the not very original idea that seemingly sane and respectable people are capable of believing the most astonishing bunkum, and that it's a Good Thing to question most of the science and health related news even in the mainstream media, Skeptoid 2 doesn't offer a consistent, clearly guided argument.

I don't think it intended to, though, and as it exposes individual cases, Skeptoid 2 also provides examples of critical thinking as applied by Dunning to checking and debunking outrageous claims. It's a decent educational tool in itself, and Dunning conversational tone is accessible and friendly.

Dunning is neither preachy nor excessively arrogant (although a degree of arrogance is, admittedly, something of a defining species trait for debunkers and sceptics) and his pieces are usually very well researched and often surprisingly balanced.

He does, though, seem to place rather excessive trust in official, United-States-government produced information. He takes the integrity of institutions like FDA and others at the face value (despite known problems with many of their procedures), often quotes the US government sources as the final authority and doesn't seem to ever question them, at least in this book. He never contemplates the possibility of corruption by vested interest agendas, and, like many US sceptics, has a (admittedly, faintly) noticeable libertarian bias.

Recommended to those interested in bad science, conspiracy theories, urban myths and misrepresentation of science in the media.

The review copy was sent to the Bookbag by the author - thank you!

Bad Science is a an absolute must for anybody interested in exploring similar regions.

Booklists.jpg Skeptoid 2: More Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena by Brian Dunning is in the Top Ten Books For The Defenders Of Reason.
Buy Skeptoid 2: More Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena by Brian Dunning at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Skeptoid 2: More Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena by Brian Dunning at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Skeptoid 2: More Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena by Brian Dunning at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Skeptoid 2: More Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena by Brian Dunning at Amazon.com.


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