Written by Mona Hide Klausen, Kjetil Hope
Publisher: Humanist forlag
Genre: Psychology, Nonfiction
Original Language: Norwegian
Read from 2013-07-13 to 2013-07-15
Read in Norwegian
Review: Skepsis is a Norwegian book, the title of which translates into “Scepticism”. It presents itself as being a ‘guide to critical thinking’, containing tools and methods one can use in order to critically evaluate the plethora of information and arguments we encounter every day. The book is split into two parts. The first part discusses some of the theory behind the scientific method and experimental design, as well as some logical fallacies, common methods used to manipulate opinions, and so on. Part of me likes to think I am already rather well versed in most of this. Over the five years I have been studying for my degree I have read a bunch of scientific papers, good and bad, written critical reviews of papers, engaged in many discussions about science, politics, conspiracy theories, and so on. Still, I don’t think having these things explained in new ways, from different people, and from a different perspective is ever a waste of time. The second part of the book promises to use these tools to consider (and implicitly rebuff) a handful of things such as homeopathy, conspiracy theories, flying saucers and the like. This is done through a collection of mini-essays written about the individual topics, considering the so-called evidence for it, explaining the logical disconnects, the bad science and just generally explaining why the things in question, from a sceptic’s point of view, don’t make sense. I consider myself a bit of a sceptic already, and I therefore hoped that these essays would go beyond just preaching to the choir. Unfortunately most of them didn’t. And, more importantly, I don’t think they are written in a way which would be well received by people who aren’t members of the choir. I’d have liked the essays to be more systematic, and more… well, scientific in their approach to rebuffing bad science. As it is the essays would probably seem patronising, and rightfully so, to people who don’t agree with the author. When you have spent half the book outlining the principles of science, why not be a little more obvious in the application of them later? It feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. This could have been the perfect book to give as a gift to people who keep going on about alternative medicine or conspiracy theories. It comes so close to ensnaring them in the net of science which, if nothing else, would have given them something to think about. Instead the second part of the book becomes preachy, and will probably just serve to make people angry. In sum this becomes an interesting book that will probably be disliked and mistrusted by the people to whom it would have been the most use. What we are left with is a book that plays primarily to its safe audience, allowing sceptics, and people like myself, to pat themselves on the back and revel in how much more sensible they are than everyone else. That being said, I quite enjoyed the book. If you are a sceptic, or just generally consider yourself a science-oriented person, you will probably like this book. If you’re not and you don’t, you might not like the book, but I’d implore you to read it anyway.