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Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to…

Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack… (2008)

by Damian Thompson

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Counterknowledge was a very quick read -- I finished it in about two hours, and a very worthwhile read. This book is a rise to arms against the misinformation that clouds modern day thinking. Rather than speaking out against the institutions that purport this wrong-thinking, the book speaks out for a new Enlightenment and respect for the methodologies that modern science values. The book presents its arguments in a sound, logical manner that makes it easy reading while not devaluing the importance of its message in the least. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
In many ways this is a complementary volume to Andrew Keen's 2007 book The Cult of the Amateur and, going back a little earlier, Francis Wheen's 2004 polemic How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World: all three are concerned with how, in the name of in other contexts laudable principles like democracy and freedom of speech, we're selling out to the ignorant, the biased, the secret corporation shills, the bullies, and the batshit crazy. It's a fairly short book, and it romps lightly and very readably through a limited set of areas in which public knowledge is being devastated by other people's agendas. Much of this material has been covered in greater depth elsewhere; this is no hostile criticism, because Thompson's book serves as an ideal introduction for those who haven't read the fuller treatments. What makes this book valuable, though, is Thompson's refusal to be browbeaten by political correctness; or, at least, the blanket application of that concept to stuff that people would rather not admit. His treatment of the mangling of science and promotion of rankest pseudoscience in the Islamic cultures is especially enlightening (it led me to Pervez Hoodbhoy's much more detailed treatment in Islam and Science), as is his demolition of "Afrocentric history", far too much of which is plain mythology (I rushed out and bought Mary Lefkowitz's Not Out of Africa for a more detailed treatment, and should be reading it shortly). His discussion of HIV/AIDS-denialism is also good.

And sometimes it's funny, too. ( )
  JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
Extremely interesting, eminently readable and cogently argued. However, I felt Thompson didn't fully substantiate the line he draws between counterknowledge and religious faith: I broadly agree with him on this point, but he did seem to be begging the question a bit. ( )
  Intemerata | Jan 14, 2010 |
Generally reasonable polemic against bad science and bad history. Thompson ranges across a variety examples, but it's clear that he has some particular axes to grind (Afrocentric history, Islamic creationism, nutritionist Patrick Holford). He seems tempted to present counterknowledge as a new problem, but it clearly isn't: just a problem exploded out of control due to modern communications. I enjoyed is argument, but his conclusions fell flat. ( )
  yarmando | Oct 4, 2008 |
It is not that people are ignorant and lack discernment; nor are they beguiled by the power of the internet; rather there is an attraction, sometimes cynical, sometimes desperate, but an attraction nonetheless to dogmatic points of view at a time when the power of human reason and our ability to make history are both seen as discredited.

  angusk | Jul 16, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393067696, Hardcover)

An important and compelling book on the viral dissemination of misinformation in today's world.

We are being swamped with dangerous nonsense. From 9/11 conspiracy theories to Holocaust denial to alternative medicine, we are all experiencing an epidemic of demonstrably untrue descriptions of the world. For Damian Thompson, the misinformation industry is wreaking havoc on the once-lauded virtues of science and reason. Unproven theories and spurious claims are forms of "counterknowledge," and, helped by the Internet, they are creating a global generation of misguided adherents who repeat these untruths and lend them credence. Thompson explores our readiness to accept falsehoods and the viral role of technology in spreading quack remedies, pseudo-history, and creationist fanaticism. Following in the footsteps of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, Sam Harris's The End of Faith, and Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great, Counterknowledge is a brilliant defense of scientific proof in an age of fabrication.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:15 -0400)

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From conspiracy theories to alternative medicine, people are experiencing an epidemic of untrue descriptions of the world. Following in the footsteps of Richard Dawkins's "The God Delusion" and Sam Harris's "The End of Faith," this work is a defense of scientific proof in an age of fabrication.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

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