The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake

Steven Novella, with Bob Novella, Cara Santa Maria, Jay Novella, and Evan Bernstein. Grand Central, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-1-5387-6051-2
In this handbook on applying logic and reason to everyday life, Novella, a clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, expands on his podcast of the same name, assisted by the podcast’s other cast members. Seeking to give “one giant inoculation against bad science, deception, and faulty thinking,” Novella unpacks and defines false perceptions, biases, and logical fallacies while showing how emotions can overwhelm judgment and memories can lie. Putting his skepticism to use, he demonstrates how confirmation bias creates “the confident illusion that we are following the evidence,” how “good clean science blends imperceptibly into blatantly absurd pseudoscience,” and how “grand conspiracy theories... intrinsically fail within about four years.” Ghost hunter claims and free energy scams are thoroughly and precisely dismantled. In plain English and cogent prose, Novella makes skepticism seem mighty, necessary, and accessible all at once. He also shares advice on speaking to closed-minded friends or family: locate common ground, don’t be confrontational, and find the thing toward which they’re already skeptical. Empowering and illuminating, this thinker’s paradise is an antidote to spreading anti-scientific sentiments. Readers will return to its ideas again and again. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2018
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