Crimes Against Logic

Crimes Against Logic

After reading the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, I have been slowly following a trail of books that were part of the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..." list from Amazon. And I can say that this approach seems to work quite well. All the books that I have picked up so far have been really enjoyable.

This method of choosing new books to read also has it drawbacks -- mainly that I am only reading the same sort of things over and over. However, while browsing for the book at the local Borders (I am a member so I get 20% discount coupons each week to buy some new book) I also see some other books that are interesting and would be buy them once I run out of recommendations to read. One that has caught my fancy is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I have almost completed Freakonomics and while it is an interesting read (full of unexpected outcomes) it does not warrant any real blogging on my part. In fact, I find those stories to be more entertaining -- think of coffee table conversations material with someone whom you have just met -- but not really useful in any other sense. I have some reservations toward the anecdotes in the book since there isn't enough proof to convince me of their credibility. Again, like I said, it's a book worth reading just to stump your friends on some aspect of life in the US.

But Crimes of Logic by Jamie Whyte is something different. And did I mention that this book is thin, being around 130 pages, so you don't have to make a great commitment to read it. Probably all you need is about 4 hours before bed time. And since the chapters are short and non-continuous, you could easily read one or two during the times you are free and the book will still feel coherent.

Compared to Blnk, The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, there are no out-of-the-box anecdotes that would stump most people. In fact, Whyte uses only simple examples that everyone has probably heard about through the media. And using this simple examples, he points out logical fallacies about them! And he writes with such clarity that it is impossible to miss the punch-line at the end of each chapter. And when you get it, you would be thinking to yourself: how did I fall for that in the first place?!

I was surprised too that I had fallen for some of the logical fallacies while reading the newspaper or listening to the news. In fact this was really surprising. When I read academic papers, I tend to be more critical in my reading and can detect if certain sections are there just to finagle the reader into believing the paper. On the other hand when I read a non-technical article such as an article in a magazine or the newspaper, sometimes it feels that I just turn off part of my brain that does logical thinking. Yes, this is a very illogical thing to do since fallacies present themselves in all forms of writing and they especially abound in journalism.

So why does my logical side of my brain turn itself off? Probably because I don't really care about the news that much so I cannot be bothered to analyze it. Or more likely that I had somehow succumb to the journalistic writing style that favors gossip and shenanigans such that those elements seem more interesting than the gist itself. Whatever the reason, Whyte has certainly produced a nice little catalogue of common fallacies that people commit and how to detect them.

Now all he needs to do is convince the people who commit such fallacies to read them.

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