Thursday, June 19, 2008

Clear Thinking

I can't claim I think clearly all the time, which is why it's important that other people do. One of us has to be the designated driver, or we'll end up going to hell in a handbasket.

Apparently normal people have told me the world is ending on December 21, 2012. Some people near where I live thought house prices would rise forever. A few years ago many bought tech stocks because it was "a new economy" and the prices would never fall. People who read newspapers and blogs are astonished that a writer could misrepresent someone's statement, use loose or incorrect grammar, use hyperbole or use weasel words.

At the other extreme, I read Usenet for many years. There, some folk (who were apparently not joking) would seize on a post and dissect every paragraph, sentence, clause and phrase endlessly, repeatedly, for days if not weeks, refusing or refuting any outside explanations or clarifications, either by the original poster or by any bystanders, expert or amateur, until the original post's meaning was as dead as a dissected, Formalinized body, and then proclaim, "See? You weren't right!"

There is a middle way. Here's a few books I recommend.

Books on my shelf I can recommend personally. Most have extensive previews on the web.

Title: Why People Believe Weird Things
By Michael Shermer

Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science (The curious theories of modern pseudoscientists and the strange amusing and alarming cults that surround them. A study in human gullibility.)
By Martin Gardner

Kooks (A guide to the outer limits of human belief)
By Donna Fossy

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
By Charles Mackay

Ponzi Schemes, Invaders from Mars & More Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
By Joseph Bulgatz
(Update of Mackay. Even more interesting but no preview on the web.)

Fakes, Frauds and Other Malarkey (301 Amazing Stories and How Not to be Fooled)
By Kathryn Lindskoog

How to Think About Weird Things (Critical Thinking for a New Age)
Theodore Schick, Jr. Lewis Vaughn

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