Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era

Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era

by Daniel J. Levitin


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Previously Published as A Field Guide to Lies

We’re surrounded by fringe theories, fake news, and pseudo-facts. These lies are getting repeated. New York Times bestselling author Daniel Levitin shows how to disarm these socially devastating inventions and get the American mind back on track. Here are the fundamental lessons in critical thinking that we need to know and share now.

Investigating numerical misinformation, Daniel Levitin shows how mishandled statistics and graphs can give a grossly distorted perspective and lead us to terrible decisions. Wordy arguments on the other hand can easily be persuasive as they drift away from the facts in an appealing yet misguided way. The steps we can take to better evaluate news, advertisements, and reports are clearly detailed. Ultimately, Levitin turns to what underlies our ability to determine if something is true or false: the scientific method. He grapples with the limits of what we can and cannot know. Case studies are offered to demonstrate the applications of logical thinking to quite varied settings, spanning courtroom testimony, medical decision making, magic, modern physics, and conspiracy theories.

This urgently needed book enables us to avoid the extremes of passive gullibility and cynical rejection. As Levitin attests: Truth matters. A post-truth era is an era of willful irrationality, reversing all the great advances humankind has made. Euphemisms like “fringe theories,” “extreme views,” “alt truth,” and even “fake news” can literally be dangerous. Let's call lies what they are and catch those making them in the act.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101983829
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/07/2017
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 197,424
Product dimensions: 5.26(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Daniel J. Levitin, Ph.D., is Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at KGI, a Distinguished Faculty Fellow at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, and the James McGill Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Music at McGill University, Montreal, where he also holds appointments in the Program in Behavioural Neuroscience, The School of Computer Science, and the Faculty of Education. An award-winning scientist and teacher, he now adds best-selling author to his list of accomplishments as This Is Your Brain on Music, The World in Six Songs and The Organized Mind were #1 best-sellers. His work has been translated into 21 languages. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he worked as a session musician, sound engineer, and record producer working with artists such as Stevie Wonder and Blue Oyster Cult. He has published extensively in scientific journals as well as music magazines such as Grammy and Billboard. Recent musical performances include playing guitar and saxophone with Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Rosanne Cash, David Byrne, Cris Williamson, Victor Wooten, and Rodney Crowell.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Thinking, Critically xiii

Part 1 Evaluating Numbers

Plausibility 3

Fun with Averages 11

Axis Shenanigans 26

Hijinks with How Numbers Are Reported 43

How Numbers Are Collected 75

Probabilities 97

Part 2 Evaluating Words

How Do We Know? 123

Identifying Expertise 129

Overlooked, Undervalued Alternative Explanations 152

Counterknowledge 168

Part 3 Evaluating the World

How Science Works 181

Logical Fallacies 198

Knowing What You Don't Know 211

Bayesian Thinking in Science and in Court 216

Four Case Studies 222

Conclusion: Discovering Your Own 251

Appendix: Application of Bayes's Rule 255

Glossary 257

Notes 263

Acknowledgments 285

Index 287

About the Author 295

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