Previously published as A Field Guide to Lies.
We’re surrounded by fringe theories, fake news, and pseudofacts. These lies are getting repeated. New York Times best-selling author Daniel Levitin shows how to disarm these socially devastating inventions and get the American mind back on track. Here are the fundamental lessons in critical thinking that we need to know and share now.
Investigating numerical misinformation, Daniel Levitin shows how mishandled statistics and graphs can give a grossly distorted perspective and lead us to terrible decisions. Wordy arguments, on the other hand, can easily be persuasive as they drift away from the facts in an appealing yet misguided way. The steps we can take to better evaluate news, advertisements, and reports are clearly detailed. Ultimately, Levitin turns to what underlies our ability to determine if something is true or false: the scientific method. He grapples with the limits of what we can and cannot know. Case studies are offered to demonstrate the applications of logical thinking to quite varied settings, spanning courtroom testimony, medical decision making, magic, modern physics, and conspiracy theories.
This urgently needed book enables us to avoid the extremes of passive gullibility and cynical rejection. As Levitin attests: Truth matters. A post-truth era is an era of willful irrationality, reversing all the great advances humankind has made. Euphemisms like “fringe theories”, “extreme views”, “alt truth”, and even “fake news” can literally be dangerous. Let’s call lies what they are and catch those making them in the act.
*Includes a PDF of supplemental graphics on visualizing conditional probabilities