11 July 2011

Book Review - Stephen Law and his Believing Bullshit

     When you say "philosopher" most people imagine old men with great white beards, possibly this was true in old Greece, but we have have moved on a bit since then. I have been reading a book from Stephen Law called  Believing Bullshit.

I have only started reading philosophy recently, and came across Stephen Law when I bought his earlier book The War for Childrens Minds, as I had hoped it would have been useful in our current battle in Australia with the Chaplains, and Religious Indoctrination classes in schools. Maybe he can add a chapter for the next edition on Australia.

 I have to admit I'm not sure who Believing Bullshit aimed at, I would be encouraging younger people to read it, as it covers a good range of logical fallacies, some basic philosophical questions, and it's not a book that is hard going. I'm sure it would have been helpful to me when I was younger. If you have spent some time in the atheist movement, or reading atheist blogs, and watching the debates with religious and theological people you will probably have seen most of the areas covered in the book. It's not particularly aimed solely towards religion, but also alternative medicine and much of the New Age style of thinking. 

The Book has eight chapters

1. Playing the Mystery Card
2. But it Fits and the Blunderbuss
3. Going Nuclear
4. Moving the Semantic Goalposts
5. I Just Know!
6. Pseudoprofunity
7. Piling up the Anecdotes
8. Pressing your buttons

These are some of the methods and verbal strategies used by those who seek to defend their positions when put under rational scrutiny.

I have to admit its the only book I have read with two appendixes to the Introduction, but the contents are entertaining,and provide good examples of woolly thinking, one such being a theological reason for earthquakes.

Each Chapter explains how the method is used and applied, the author also explains what is wrong with it.   

It does seem to have rather more italics in the text than I am used to.

I have made a few of my own examples, and found another a few days ago. I think the chapters they relate to are quite obvious.

And from the web a few days ago

I wasn't so keen on the Screwtape letters at the end of the book, but then I didn't read the original by C S Lewis, as I usually steer clear of Christian hypocrites.

I really do sympathise that Stephen must have to read an awful lot of this rubbish, in order to refute it.
If you can read an interview with Stephen Law at New Scientist and you can hear him talk at the Poddelusion podcast from the BHA Convention in June.

Stephen Law is lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, The University of London. He is also editor of THINK, a journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy aimed at the general public.

How many Bishops does it take to change a light bulb? They don't want the lightbulb to be changed as they prefer everyone be kept in the dark. -Anon  

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