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761 of 786 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it and give it to everyone you know
This book deserves the widest possible exposure in America, especially so close to the election, because it an excellent primer on how to guard yourself against the faulty reasoning that governs so much modern political discourse - and avoid adopting it yourself. I first heard about the book because one of its points was mentioned in an essay. The point was basically...
Published on October 28, 2004 by Gulley Jimson

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93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but uneven
Whyte brilliantly exposes the Motive Fallacy in Chapter 2, then occasionally slips into using it throughout the rest of the book, He doesn't descend to using it to refute arguments, but does use it to undermine credibility, e.g. "It gives them a thrilling fit of the cosmic heebie-jeebies."

Others did not detect smugness. I did, but am not bothered by it. It...
Published on April 16, 2005 by T. Wyman


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761 of 786 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it and give it to everyone you know, October 28, 2004
By 
This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
This book deserves the widest possible exposure in America, especially so close to the election, because it an excellent primer on how to guard yourself against the faulty reasoning that governs so much modern political discourse - and avoid adopting it yourself. I first heard about the book because one of its points was mentioned in an essay. The point was basically that just because someone has a motive to hold a certain position doesn't necessarily mean that the position is false. This seemed pretty obvious, but as I turned to the media I was amazed at how often politicians use this method, and how easily I had accepted their claims if they lined up with my political preferences.

Any damaging report against either side, for example, would frequently be denounced as a "partisan" attack, with occasional documentation of how the person who presented the report was tied to one party or another, as if this were the issue at hand. No attempt was made to address whether the report was true or not, the assumption being that exposing a bias - a motive for the potentially false information - was conclusive evidence.

Some of the things Whyte discussed in the book - for example, sample bias in statistics - are going to be familiar to many people, but just as frequently he comes up with something that all of us have probably used in an argument. For example, in the chapter "begging the question," he quotes a common pro-choice argument: "If you believe abortion is wrong, that's fine, don't abort your pregnancies. But show tolerance toward others who don't share your beliefs."

He points out that this ignores that actual position of anti-abortionists, that abortion is murder, morally equivalent to killing a live human being. The argument for tolerance takes for granted that the fetus is not really a person, and that therefore it should be possible for everyone to only be concerned with their own behavior. But as Whyte points out, anyone that actually wishes to confront the issue will have to address the question of whether the fetus is a human being. So many pleas for tolerance between certain feuding religions, he points out, have the same problem, because they skirt the genuine issue that is giving rise to the outrage - that, by the tenets of some religions, only one of them can be true.

I suspect Whyte's positions on religion will offend the most readers. He has no sympathy for familiar arguments about the un-knowable nature of god, or that the intricacy of life on earth necessarily implies a god (already taken apart by Hume in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion); he also presents a simple and conclusive refutation of Pascal's gambit that I've never come across before. Luckily, he does not exhibit the most annoying characteristic of many rationalists, smugness; instead, he seems to have a deep desire to get at truth, which I think we are more in need of today than any amount of vague piety.

The book will only take a couple of days to read, and is very clearly written. I remember an article that dealt with similar material that I read in high school, forgotten now because it ended up as an exercise in memorizing the Latin names of various fallacies. Whyte is conscientious about calling things by their common names. Buy the book, give it to your friends, and try to get at the bottom of why you believe what you do (and whether you still should).
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93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but uneven, April 16, 2005
This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
Whyte brilliantly exposes the Motive Fallacy in Chapter 2, then occasionally slips into using it throughout the rest of the book, He doesn't descend to using it to refute arguments, but does use it to undermine credibility, e.g. "It gives them a thrilling fit of the cosmic heebie-jeebies."

Others did not detect smugness. I did, but am not bothered by it. It comes with the territory when writing about unclear thinking. As he invites the reader to share in it if one can but follow along, I doubt many people will be put off by it. He chooses some surprising examples to illustrate his points; some groups will be pleased at encountering a rare acknowledgement of their reasonableness.

There is a second weakness. Some questions are decided according to different standards of proof, as in the varieties of legal evidence: "beyond a reasonable doubt" vs. "clear and convincing" vs. "preponderance of the evidence." Whyte notes this accurately in some places, but neglects it in others, requiring proof where reasonableness might be enough.

Still, it's good. Amusing, instructive, and clear.
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345 of 401 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Summary Despite Its Tone, March 31, 2005
By 
Timothy Haugh (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
There is much about this book that I like very much. Mr. White's ability to see the logical flaws in an argument is impressive and there are few things that would benefit this world more than if more people had the ability to see if they were being misled by their politicians, pundits and religious leaders. A serious reader of this book would certainly gain more tools in this difficult task.

On the other hand, in my opinion this book does have one weakness: its dismissive tone. There is a subtle air of superiority that Mr. White projects in his prose that I find disheartening. Though he pays lip service to the fact that it can be very difficult to spot certain logical fallacies, particularly as we are bombarded by opinions disguised as fact 24 hours a day through the media, he does not seem very sympathetic the fact that many people do try their best to work there way through the morass of opinions despite being hampered by media overkill, prominent positions demanding action, their own strongly held opinions and the lack of a prestigious education. Mr. White has much to teach but it is difficult to swallow when the student is made to feel small and foolish.

I am particularly disappointed by Mr. White's dismissiveness towards religion. Though I agree completely with his assertion that religious tenets (like the existence of God, etc.) cannot be proved logically and that many religious leaders misuse logic severely, I do not agree that this is sufficient to dismiss religious experience out of hand. Granted, I am a person of religious belief, but I am also a mathematician and I would argue that there are things that are true that cannot be proved. But I'm sure Mr. White, chuckling sadly and looking down his nose at me, would disagree.

Still, this does not change my opinion that this is a very powerful book that should be widely read. Much of his analysis--begging the question, coincidence, statistical analysis--I have seen expounded upon more widely in other books but Mr. White's book is concise and ranges much more widely. Anyone trying to get a handle on our world today would benefit from reading it.
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars EXTENDER OF LONG TRADITION OF LOGIC FLAW DENOUNCERS, September 8, 2006
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This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
Jamie Whyte follows in a long tradition of writers that focus on flaws of logic that most people seem to fall into. His predecessors include Richard Dawkins (of a more scientific tone) and Gary Becker (of a more economics tone). Dr Whyte, by training a philosopher, focuses on pure reason and the ways people violate it.

The book is divided into major types of logical flaws to which the author gives specific names, such as Morality Fever, Right to Your Own Opinion, Mexploitation and Prejudice in a Fancy Dress. Examples include using words with bad conotations to contaminate an argument, staking moral high ground and drawing ridiculous parallels to make an argument and cultural relativism about things that are either true or not; these are some of the strategies employed to support arguments oftentimes devoid of logic.

The tone of the author is sometimes sarcartic and arrogant, which may put off a few readers at time, but overall it is well written and clear, a good entertaining read. It does leave one with the lingering "Aha" memory whenever one meets the fallacies presented here. Unfortunately, they are much more common than logic would expect.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and informative, August 9, 2005
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This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
This is a very entertaining little book about bad reasoning. I laughed out loud on several occasions and have found myself reading sections to friends who I knew would enjoy them (or wouldn't, in some cases!).

I was already familiar with some of the fallacies, but a few were new to me, such as the fallacies of equivocation and begging the question.

Once explained, most of the fallacies Whyte highlights are easily understood. Which only makes it more incredible that they are so common, as shown by the incredibly wide range of examples Whyte draws on. I now find myself playing "spot the fallacy" when reading the paper or watching the news. It's fun for a while, until you start to get angry.

Whyte is pretty harsh on religion and some readers won't like it. But let's be honest, there is a lot of bad reasoning about religion. It would be ridiculous for a book on common fallacies to avoid the topic.

Apart from his apparent atheism, Whyte's substantive views are difficult to discern. He usually does a good job of sticking to the logic of arguments rather than the truth of their conclusions. And his occasionally angry tone, which some reviewers don't like, is usually appropriate and often very funny. I can highly recommend this book.
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69 of 78 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, Enlightening, Even Handed -- Almost, February 9, 2006
By 
George R Dekle "Bob Dekle" (Lake City, FL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
Whyte has written a book that, but for one serious flaw, would deserve six stars. He explores the world of informal logic and deconstructs the defective arguments of partisans on all sides of every issue. He gives entertaining names to standard logical missteps and sophistries, and strikes a much-needed blow for clarity of thought.

He has a blind spot, however. On the issue of religion, he slips from syllogism to enthymeme, from analysis to rhetoric. And his arguments commit many of the very logical missteps and sophistries he decries in other parts of the book.

For example: A standard sophistry is the straw man maneuver. Either 1. seize upon some minor slip in your opponent's case, refute it, and thereby pretend to have refuted your opponent's entire case; or 2. Misinterpret an aspect of your opponent's case, refute the misinterpretation, and thereby pretend to have refuted your opponent's entire case. As a trial lawyer of 30 years experience, I've seen this move employed countless times. Whyte employs it against Christianity in the following fashion. The doctrine of the Trinity is a much-debated concept which is variously interpreted by different denominations of Christians. Some Christian denominations reject it entirely. Whyte takes the most logically indefensible interpretation of the Trinity, ascribes it to all Christians, constructs a logical refutation of that interpretation, and thereby claims to have discredited all Christianity.

In another place, he attacks Pascal's Wager. (Pascal's Wager runs like this. I'll bet you there is a Christian God and you bet me there is no god. If I'm right, I live and you die. If you're right, we both die. You're betting on a sure loser whereas I at least have a chance of winning). His first line of attack is to criticize Pascal's motive for making such a wager. God couldn't be very proud of someone who became a Christian for such selfish reasons. This is an attack that he justly condemns in another part of his book. That a person has a bad motive for maintaining a proposition does not necessarily make the proposition false. His second attack points out that by Pascal's reasoning, Islam and Judaism are also superior bets to atheism. Once again, the fact that Islam and Judaism are also superior bets to atheism doesn't change the fact that Christianity is a better bet than atheism. I'm not saying that Pascal's Wager can't be refuted. I'm saying that Whyte has used the very flawed reasoning he elsewhere condemns in attempting to refute it.

Finally, he addresses the Problem of Evil, and in a few sentences he dismissively proves that there is no god because an all powerful, all good god would not allow evil to exist. He makes this argument almost immediately after a section wherein he criticizes broad general statements using "hooray" and "boo" words. His examples of "hooray" and "boo" words are "justice" and "injustice," synonyms of "good" and "evil". He has just disproved the existence of any god by making a broad general statement using "hooray" and "boo" words. Suffice it to say that St. Thomas Aquinas, among others, grappled with the same problem applying greater depth of analysis than Whyte and came up with a different result. Once again, I'm not saying that the Problem of Evil doesn't present a huge conundrum for believers--it does. I'm saying that Whyte isn't using good logic by blowing it off in a couple of sentences.

Many religious leaders have said many dumb things. Whyte could have found (and in some places did find) some genuinely dumb things espoused in the name of religion and criticized them logically. In those places where he did, I have not taken him to task.

It is disappointing that Whyte can have been so logical everywhere else and so illogical when he writes on religion. Why did he find it necessary to mar his otherwise excellent book by engaging in such logically flawed attacks on such highly debatable religious topics as the Trinity, Pascal's Wager, and the Problem of Evil? Philosophers and theologians have debated these three issues for decades with many good arguments being made on all sides of the issues.

A FOOTNOTE: After writing this review, I went looking for other books by Whyte. Despite his flawed critique of religion, I enjoyed and learned much from his book and wanted to read more of his writings. I found another book, "Bad Thoughts," and read the reviews. In addition to learning that "Bad Thoughts" is "Crimes Against Logic" under a different title, I also came to realize that Whyte didn't confine his fuzzy thinking to religious topics. One of the reviews astutely pointed out several other examples of logical missteps on Whyte's part. Once they were pointed out, they were obvious. I forgive Whyte, however. As St. Paul said, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Whyte has still written an excellent book. Just be very careful in analyzing his arguments. He sometimes strays from sober analysis into logically flawed polemical rhetoric.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful and entertaining, May 24, 2005
By 
Gary the Traveller (Melbourne, VIC, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
This is a great little book. We already know we are being fed shoddy arguments, of course, but it can be hard to put your finger on exactly what's wrong with them. Not after reading this clear and often very funny book. Whyte exposes, names (not in Latin) and skewers the most common "crimes against logic". Once you have read the book, you will see them everywhere, even in your own babbling.

I particularly enjoyed the chapters on language, "Empty Words" and "Equivocation", which explain how slippery language is used as a substitute for proper reasoning. The section on consultant-speak is hilarious.

This book won't solve all your problems - a fact which seems to bother some other Amazon reviewers. But it isn't supposed to. It only tells you how to spot common errors in reasoning. And it fulfills that mission brilliantly.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read For Anyone Interested In Truth, August 21, 2005
By 
Ken (PORT ANGELES, WA, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
Sadly, good reasoning skills are normally not taught in school and are never really developed by most people. Countless examples of faulty reasoning, as described in this book, are commonly used by people. And that faulty reasoning doesn't just affect personal opinion, but it often directs public policy, affects serious medical care decisions, and can even lead to wars. Everyone interested in truth vs. dogma/ideology and willing to reconsider their own opinions/beliefs would benefit from this book. If our politicians, media pundits, and religious leaders understood the principles in this book, and were truly interested in truth vs. ideology, the world would be a better place.

Whyte has a dry humor that made reading this book a pure pleasure. He explains the many logic fallacies, so common in public and personal dialog, in a clear manner that quickly equips the reader with their own baloney detection capabilities.

Whyte does use examples of illogic in religion several times throughout the book, but this should only offend those who treat religion as if it were somehow provable by logic vs. a faith issue.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I actually enjoyed this book., October 13, 2005
This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
I'm not sure why I picked this book up, because I really did expect to be disappointed by it. I am altogether too conversant with informal logic, actually know the names (in Latin) of the more common fallacies, and in general was not looking forward to Crimes Against Logic. Perhaps I believed it would let me down. In fact, I loved the book. I laughed. I sympathized with the author. I had a great time. Whyte's work is not only logically sound; it's also entertaining and relatable. The logic itself is by no means groundbreaking (quite the reverse, in fact), however Whyte manages to single out brilliant examples of how even the most basic logical thinking is constantly trampled, mixed-up, and abused by intellectual fads. In addition, I greatly appreciated Whyte's aditude towards wrongheadedness. Far from tiptoeing around popular opinion and sentiment, Whyte seems to take the view that being wrong is, well, wrong, and that defending a falsehood with faulty logic is both wrong and extremely annoying. I couldn't agree more, and would fully recommend reading this book if you are one of the statistical minority of people known as rational thinkers.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scattershot coverage of a relevant and thought-provoking topic, June 28, 2006
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This review is from: Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (Paperback)
The book begins with an enticing assertion: faulty reasoning is ubiquitous, and most of us don't even notice. Whyte aims to bridge the gaping chasm in our educational backgrounds by teaching logic through examples and counter-examples. (Never mind the fact that this book is likely to appeal chiefly to the stronger logicians among us.)

The lessons of the book are somewhat patronizing. (And so is the tone -- Whyte addresses his readers as "dear truth-seekers" and "gentle readers.") One chapter explains that if people behave consistently with their motives, it doesn't make them wrong. Another shows that authority in one area doesn't necessarily bring credibility in others. Other lessons learned: claims that some things defy logic are not logical; you should win arguments by arguing, not by insulting people or changing the subject; obfuscatory big words do not improve arguments; two contradictory facts can't both be true.

It's the supporting examples for these lessons that make the book tick. The British government based prominent poverty statistics on a relative measure instead of an absolute one. The Vatican Council declared the Holy Trinity as incomprehensible (a "strict mystery") in 1870. Marxists redefined the word "exploitation" to suit their uses. Homeopathic medicines use curative anecdotes instead of test and control groups to validate their effectiveness.

What's disappointing is that the actual examples of crimes against logic are few. The book barely brushes the surface of the abundant missteps by politicians, and doesn't even mention advertising and media bias. Thought experiments are Whyte's primary way of communicating his message. Unfortunately, Whyte is more interested in pointing out theoretical crimes against logic than in pointing out real ones and their devastating consequences.

Whyte's occupation as a philosopher comes through in his tone, particularly in the opening chapter (where he discusses the semantics of rights, responsitibities, and entitlements in the context of the phrase "I have a right to my own opinion") and in his periodic theological and existential arguments. In general, the book is more theoretical than it needs to be, and that diminishes the impact of its lessons.

Still, it's an interesting quick read, and a great topic. If nothing else, it can successfully motivate its readers to be aware of the crimes of logic that transpire every day around us.
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