Book Review: “Think: Why You Should Question Everything”
Think: Why You Should Question Everything by Guy P. Harrison is an excellent introduction to skepticism and critical thinking. Written in such a way as to make it accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds, this is a book everyone can and should read. Due to its introductory nature, if you already identify as a skeptic this book won’t tell you anything you don’t already know, but I recommend you read it anyway, because Harrison’s style of argument is worthy of emulation. Few can suffer fools as well as Harrison. He possesses an equanimity to which all good skeptics should aspire.
There is a tendency amongst skeptics to behave and argue in a confrontational way. This is understandable given they’re used to arguing with charlatans and frauds, who when they aren’t swindling an unsuspecting public out of their time and money are endangering its health and wellbeing. Indeed, when directed at such people, confrontation seems a duty, given the consequences of letting their falsehoods go unchallenged. However, we must be careful not to treat the wishful thinkers, the gullible, and the victims of pseudoscience in the same way we treat the pernicious parasites that prey on them.
Harrison urges us in Chapter 1 to hate the belief, not the believer, and goes on to make the case for skeptical thinking in our everyday lives. Skepticism, Harrison argues, is not just the domain of the super intelligent and scientifically literate, it is something anyone can employ as a defence against irrational beliefs. In Chapter 2, Harrison details the many ways our brains can fool us, such as our faulty memories and errors in reasoning. Chapter 3 presents arguments against most of the common conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific claims, from ghosts and UFOs to alternative medicine and psychics. Chapter 4 encourages us to look after our brains by getting enough sleep, providing them with proper nutrition, and keeping mentally as well as physically active. And in the final chapter, Harrison challenges the all too common belief that skepticism is cold and heartless, reminding us that there is beauty in reality, and that we needn’t cling to falsities for inspiration or to feel a sense of the numinous.
As with all books of this nature, the problem is that the people who need to read it most probably aren’t even going to pick it up. The solution I think is simple – buy them a copy. Let Harrison’s arguments permeate their mind so you don’t have to lose yours by having yet another conversation with them about their irrational beliefs. If you have a crazy aunt who is constantly trying to shove her latest alternative medicine craze down your throat, buy her this book. If you have a friend who is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, buy them this book. If you know someone who wears a tinfoil hat and never leaves the house for fear of being abducted by aliens, buy them this book, and maybe refer them to a psychiatrist.
It is no exaggeration to say this book, in a mere couple hundred pages, provides more skeptical utility than 12 years of primary and secondary education. Our education system spends so much time telling us what to think that it never teaches us how to think. We need more teachers like Harrison. If you want to vaccinate yourself and your children against irrational, dangerous beliefs, reading this book is an excellent start.
You can purchase Think: Why Should Question Everything wherever good books are sold, and you can find out more about Guy P. Harrison and his other books at his website.