Top Ten Books For The Defenders Of Reason

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We are living in one of the most prosperous periods in the history of humanity, and our lives are longer and healthier than they have ever been before. Despite that, people seem to be getting more worried about a huge number of issues, some clearly valid, some ridiculously improbable, some downright loony. A growing (and often justified) mistrust in government and big business is paralleled by a growing (and completely unjustified) belief in outlandish conspiracy theories, alternative therapies that work worse than placebo and non-existing pseudo-science. The human brain, adapted to small hunter-gatherer groups roaming the Pleistocene savannah has some trouble dealing with the information overload of modern global culture. Magda has chosen a selection of books which won't rewire our brains but can go some way to making us more aware and more wary of the creeping ways of unreason. Why not tell us about your favourite books by and for the defenders of reason?


Irrationality by Stuart Sutherland

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Wonderfully written examination of human irrational behaviours and cognitive mechanisms; convincing, well researched and even with advice on how to watch out and try to minimise your own unreason. Highly recommended for all. Full review...

Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear by Dan Gardner

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A book crammed with complex details, facts, proofs and opinions, all dressed very lightly and readably. It might not sound like a thriller, but it's very accessible and covers a topic one should definitely open one's mind to more. Full review...

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

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A hilarious, useful and essential look at the appalling misuses of science throughout society. Part exposé and part educational tool, Bad Science is as highly recommended as they come for anyone with even half a brain. Full review...

Panicology by Simon Briscoe and Hugh Aldersey-Williams

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A successful attempt at putting some sense into the scare stories of recent years, each essay summarises essential facts and statistics while trying to ascertain the real risk and compare it to the level of panic. Best used as a reference tool when the readers start to wonder about a particular scare. Full review...

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

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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. Full review...

The Tiger that Isn't by Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot

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All the tools you need to deconstruct the numbers which are pushed at us day in, day out in an easy to read and enjoyable book. Full review...

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein

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Nudge shows how knowledge about the imperfections of human reasoning and decision making can be integrated with the orthodox economical model providing a readable introduction to behavioural economics. It also proposes and convincingly presents a 'third way' approach to policy intervention. Full review...

Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick Davies

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An excellent account of the story and reasons for the decline of investigative journalism and a resulting media landscape that is more than ever full of distortion, imbalance and plain fabrication. Occasionally self-contradictory, and could definitely do with better referencing, but still a must for all that read newspapers, watch TV and have any interest at all in what passes for information in the current age. Full review...

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

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An analysis of the irrational nature of love and religion, 'Enduring Love' reads like a scary, suspenseful, thriller with strong characters and storyline with a stalker, based on well-researched condition of erotomania. Highly recommended. Full review...

Science: A Four Thousand Year History by Patricia Fara

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A definitive history of science that strikes the perfect tone. It's interesting, informative, and will make a wonderful addition to any bookshelf. Highly recommended. Patricia Fara was also kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag. Full review...

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