by Lee McIntyre ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 17, 2021
A well-argued yet discouraging exercise in the application of reason to unreason.
Irrational beliefs have reached epidemic proportions, writes philosopher and science historian McIntyre in this earnest effort to explain them.
The author hits the ground running with an account of the 2018 Flat Earth International Conference, whose attendees believe that the Earth is a disk surrounded by a wall of ice (Antarctica) under a transparent dome, that all space travel is faked, and that the truth is suppressed by a worldwide conspiracy of “experts.” The leaders in the flat Earth movement seem sincere, and the members are thrilled to belong to an elite that has discovered a truth denied to the hapless mainstream. “Science denial is not based on lack of evidence,” writes McIntyre. “Which means that it cannot be remedied just by providing more facts. Those who wish to change the minds of science deniers have to stop treating them as if they were just misinformed.” Furthermore, insults rarely work. Readers may be frustrated that the author shows as much interest in understanding how believers think as in disproving errors, but he provides ingenious insights throughout. Among those most familiar to psychologists are five factors involved in organized science denial: “cherry-picking evidence, belief in conspiracy theories, reliance on fake experts (and the denigration of real experts), logical errors, and setting impossible expectations for what science can achieve.” McIntyre shows how deniers ignored or denied the existence of climate change because it’s something that may happen in the future. Then came Covid-19, which was ubiquitous—and they denied that, too. Especially in the U.S., science denial has become politicized, with a distinct rightward tilt. “To some extent,” writes the author, “conservative denial of climate change and evolution may be explained by the fact that this is just what conservatives are expected to believe.” Lest liberals get too comfortable, McIntyre casts a gimlet eye on the fierce opposition to foods containing genetically modified organisms. “There have been no credible studies that have shown any risk in consuming them.”A well-argued yet discouraging exercise in the application of reason to unreason.
Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021
Page Count: 264
Publisher: MIT Press
Review Posted Online: June 15, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
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New York Times Bestseller
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Jonah Berger ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2023
Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.
By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Pub Date: March 7, 2023
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Harper Business
Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023
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