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Tribal Science: Brains, Beliefs, and Bad Ideas 1St Edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1616145835
ISBN-10: 1616145838
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Science has never been more important, or more deeply misunderstood. Tribal Science explains what science gets right, with a light sense of humor and a keen sense of why so many—even scientists—get science wrong. McRae’s sharp eye for historical detail and natural storyteller’s art make for a joyous and entertaining tour of science’s evolution and the ways that human evolution and biology have shaped what science became. Readers of all tribes will find much to enjoy in these pages."
-JOSHUA ROSENAU, Programs and policy director, National Center for Science Education

"Whether you’re new to the shadowy intersection of science and belief or a seasoned traveler, Tribal Science will turn your assumptions on their heads. It invites you to marvel at still-stranger vistas and tempts you to walk the paths that others overlook."
-DANIEL LOXTON, Skeptic magazine

"Our modern, luxury-filled world is full of things we tend to take for granted. It is amazing how we as a human tribe have overcome our natural unscientific thinking. McRae has done a superb job of taking readers through a tale that gives insight into how we have gone from nothing but superstition and fallacy-filled understandings of the world to our present civilization built upon a legacy of scientific observations and evidence."
-DEREK COLANDUNO, Podcast co-host and producer at Skepticality.com

About the Author

Mike McRae is a science writer for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Canberra, Australia. He is a former secondary-school science teacher and touring science communicator for Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in medical anthropology at the Australian National University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr; 1St Edition edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616145838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616145835
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,287,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John W. Loftus VINE VOICE on June 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book by Mike McRae is reminiscent of Carl Sagan's book "The Demon-Haunted World." That is a huge compliment since Sagan's book is one of the best in bringing science-based reasoning to the masses. If you loved Sagan's book you will love this one. It should be just as widely read as Sagan's book. The problem is that McRae isn't as well-known. But he should be. It's a book that can be given to average readers that will truly enlighten them gradually chapter by successive chapter. It's a book that provides examples that even the most informed skeptics will benefit from. A lot of research went into it, and it's very well-written. Highly recommended.
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Do you want to get a grasp on why we make the basic mistakes in thinking that we do? Have a look at this book. It shows how our reasoning faults, though understandable from an evolutionary perspective, can still be avoided if we're careful. A somewhat rudimentary survey of the subject, the writing is nevertheless clear, engaging, and illuminating.
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Format: Paperback
This book's main focus is the functioning of the human brain and how, because of some of its idiosyncrasies, humans interpret certain things a certain way - often, the wrong way. After describing the brain and its evolution, the author discusses early attempts at human reasoning and, eventually, the birth of philosophy and, eventually, of science. A "philosopher's toolbox" is described and examples of its use in understanding nature are described. Eventually, the author describes various events in history where serious errors in the interpretation of observations were made by otherwise reputable people who were trying to understand the universe. Throughout, the author keeps returning to how the human brain/mind works in an attempt to explain these leaps in the wrong direction.

I found this book to be generally clear, well-written and often humorous. The author is very articulate and certainly seems well-versed in his subject matter. However, I did find some passages, mainly about some aspects of psychology and brain mechanics, to be head-scratchers for me; but overall, I found the book to be interesting, informative and definitely worth the read. It should be of interest to psychology enthusiasts, some science buffs as well as those with a penchant for the philosophy of science.
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Format: Paperback
This book could have been excellent, if the author had been able to identify, acknowledge, and control his naturalistic (and atheistic) presuppositions and judgments. I enjoyed his writing style, his fascinating array of illustrations and stories, and his avoidance of aggressive, myopic scientism. Nevertheless, though he had at least a beginners understanding of philosophy of science, he didn't seem to understand that one can approach science with a naturalistic methodology without having a naturalistic worldview. That is, science can be constrained by particular methods that are bounded by rational theory, experimental rigor, and careful qualitative study without rejecting the possibility of this being a theistic universe. Theism and good science are not mutually exclusive. He should know this; many of the early scientists he discusses were committed Christians. If the author were better acquainted with the vast literature by theistic scientists, his thoughts would not so often seem naive and biased. As it stands, this book fails to model what he attempts to promote: appreciation of the social context and "tribal" influences on scientific inquiry. If he were more consistent, he would have tried to avoid--or at least warned the reader about--his own prejudices, repeatedly evident in his dismissive attitude and failure to discriminate between more and less intellectually respectable views of faith, God, and the supernatural. If he ever revises and updates the book, he would do well to learn more about historic Christianity, because his understanding appears limited to one narrow brand of "Christianity": Roman Catholicism. There is much more to Christianity than he seems to realize. It would also be good if he learned more about the philosophy and psychology of science, especially as applied by theists in their work as scientists and philosophers.
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