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Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error Paperback – January 4, 2011
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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To err is human. Yet most of us go through life assuming (and sometimes insisting) that we are right about nearly everything, from the origins of the universe to how to load the dishwasher. If being wrong is so natural, why are we all so bad at imagining that our beliefs could be mistaken, and why do we react to our errors with surprise, denial, defensiveness, and shame?
In Being Wrong, journalist Kathryn Schulz explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes relationshipswhether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations. Along the way, she takes us on a fascinating tour of human fallibility, from wrongful convictions to no-fault divorce; medical mistakes to misadventures at sea; failed prophecies to false memories; "I told you so!" to "Mistakes were made." Drawing on thinkers as varied as Augustine, Darwin, Freud, Gertrude Stein, Alan Greenspan, and Groucho Marx, she proposes a new way of looking at wrongness. In this view, error is both a given and a giftone that can transform our worldviews, our relationships, and, most profoundly, ourselves.
In the end, Being Wrong is not just an account of human error but a tribute to human creativitythe way we generate and revise our beliefs about ourselves and the world. At a moment when economic, political, and religious dogmatism increasingly divide us, Schulz explores with uncommon humor and eloquence the seduction of certainty and the crises occasioned by error. A brilliant debut from a new voice in nonfiction, this book calls on us to ask one of life's most challenging questions: what if I'm wrong?
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There are many books about the avoidance or reduction of error, of how to find and reduce error in ourselves. But this is the first book I've read that delves deeply into the human psychology of error and why it's an indivisible part of the way we think and feel. Later chapters delve into the role of error in society, in crime, in art, in religion, and in philosophy.
The result is one of the best nonfiction books I've read in recent memory. Most nonfiction ends up getting padded to book length after it has made its point, but Schulz keeps every chapter fresh and relevant. Well documented, too; though one can tell in a few cases that she is tempted toward armchair philosophy, these are the exception. Recommended.
This book did so many things all at once, it's hard for me to describe.
Factual, objective, interesting, and above all extremely well written.
This book's greatest achievement, as far as I am concerned, is that it gave me stronger empathy for my fellow man and allowed me to forgive and appreciate myself more than I ever thought possible.
This book is not a "self help" or "improvement guide", it's just a clear observation of the things we often fail to allow ourselves to recognize.
Once we have discovered the true nature and benefits of being wrong, we can't help but become even just slightly better people in the process.
Read the book.
This is not just an academic excercise. I was struck by the usefulness of these ideas in my own life. We are often unaware of our own beliefs, prejudices and motivations. How much more often, then, are we mistaken about others? Can we ever really know other people? Does our inherently narrow view allow for absolute comprehension of others, or complex situations (think politics)? Do we allow for the possibilities of goodness and transformation in those we have dismissed?
This book is long, and packed with first rate thinking and research. But it's also entertaining, readable and enjoyable. I read it fairly slowly, over a couple of months, because there is so much to digest.
An excellent book. One which I will not only recommend to lots of friends, but also one that will become gifts to many of my relatives.