- Hardcover: 344 pages
- Publisher: Columbia University Press (February 2, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0231168721
- ISBN-13: 978-0231168724
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age: Scientific Habits of Mind
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A Survival Guide for the Misinformation Age is an impassioned plea for science literacy. Given the state of the world today, in which scientifically underinformed voters elect scientifically illiterate politicians, David Helfand has written the right book at the right time with the right message. Read it now. The future of our civilization may depend on it. (Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History)
David Helfand's Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age gives readers a chance to spend time with one this country's clearest and best critical thinkers. Helfand channels Steven Pinker's ability to dissect language with John Alan Paulos's ability to explain numbers with Richard Dawkins' ability to explain our existence (to obtain food, to avoid being food, and to reproduce) with George Carlin's ability to make us laugh. Using personal anecdotes (he's a Red Sox fan), Helfand teaches us how to think through questions as diverse as why the moon doesn't make us lunatics to why it only takes twenty-three people to have a 50:50 chance that two will have the same birthday. A real pleasure. (Paul Offit, University of Pennsylvania)
A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age is a no-holds-barred paean to the scientific mode of thinking. Helfand's wide-ranging, interdisciplinary, humorously cynical intellect comes through at every turn. (J. Craig Wheeler, University of Texas at Austin)
Important and timely. (Library Journal)
Helfand's work is an admirable response to a long-standing problem of sloppy thinking. (Publishers Weekly)
Helfand is a man brimming with incredible insights on the universe. (Dave's Universe)
A must–read for anyone presuming to call themselves a scientist and a should–read for anyone just trying to make sense of the overwhelming volume of data and real and concocted 'proofs' of nearly everything that spews forth from the Internet on demand. This book provides a road map for teaching students how to both celebrate science and how to view their primary source of information with skepticism and caution. Every science teacher should read this book. (John Ziegler NSTA Recommends)
For those with an arts and humanities background, this book offers many valuable lessons.... For everyone else it provides a vital antidote to the ills of misinformation by teaching systematic and rigorous scientific reasoning. (Marina Gerner Times Literary Supplement)
Highly recommended. (CHOICE)
How I wish everyone would read, appreciate, and follow [David J. Helfand's] guidance. (Physics Today)
This book provides an inoculation against the misinformation epidemic by cultivating scientific habits of mind. From dissolving our fear of numbers and demystifying graphs, to elucidating the key concepts of probability and the use of precise language and logic, Helfand supplies an essential set of apps for the pre-frontal cortex while making science both accessible and entertaining.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author has produced a very interesting book that encourages what could be called information scepticism; clearly the average reader is not going to be able to second-guess the information given by a government, although there can be times when the supplier of data is purposefully putting a positive spin on their data, possibly overly interpreting things or being incredibly optimistic. The same can happen, of course, with companies and various pressure groups who want to encourage a certain line. Other data can be manipulated by those with a clear malicious mind, or just for fun, by passing off incredulous data as fact and seeing how far it spreads.
Yet this is not some high-brow book that looks at matters from an ivory tower. It is a book written for the average reader who might be curious about things. Of course, learned professionals should also be heeding the advice on offer and adopting a more neutral, sceptical approach to received data. The author has managed to produce a great book that takes you beyond the sheet of numbers, well-designed graphs and carefully written language to let you see that what is necessarily projected might not necessarily be the black and white reality.
This was an enjoyable book. It is written in a more narrative, rambling style that manages to retain its focus. It is not a polished machine-gun fed constant fire of facts, but a more wavering, talkative, observational approach and yet it is not boring. By the end of the journey you may be surprised just how much you have learned without even trying and the “stroll in the park” was hardly onerous or something to avoid. This is not a veiled criticism. The approach felt perfect. It “just worked.”
This review is deliberately short. The book surpassed one’s expectations, brought a lot of interesting thoughts to the fore and certainly helped confirm the reviewer’s existing views (or should that be prejudices?). Sometimes you may feel that you are overly sceptical, so when the author can confirm that scepticism can be justified and in fact be essential, it is nice to know one is in such good company. It is a celebration and collection of miscellany, a forensic examination of the ‘facts’ that we might otherwise know and a pleasant series of fireside talks at the same time. It is all quite addictive.