22 November 2007

Straight & Crooked Thinking

Following a request from Dylan Dog, I thought I would post a short bit about one of my favourite books of all time. Yes, The God Delusion is good. Yes, Moby Dick is sublime. Yes, the Bible is lots of fun (as long as you don't take it too seriously). But this book is a concise work of supreme genius.

What book?

Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert Henry Thouless.

It's pretty difficult to get hold of these days - inexplicably it is no longer available in cheap paperback. The edition I have was £1.95 in 1974 (by Pan Books), but the heritage of this treasure goes back to the 1930s, when the rise of crooked thinking was poisoning Europe, and indeed copies of the original edition were distributed to British troops to help them counter Nazi propaganda. There followed significant revisions in 1953 and 1974, and Thouless's son Christopher published a revised and edited edition in the 1990s (which I haven't read).

If you are a publisher, buy the rights to this book, and put it back on the mass market, where it belongs!

It is neither a dry nor weighty tome, but is jam-packed with raw rational sense. It will give you techniques for identifying fallacies and false arguments. It will help protect you from the devious subterfuges of politicians and preachers, journalists and jingoists. It is sweet manna from a rational heaven. Thouless describes 38 dishonest tricks that are commonly used in arguments (there may be more). You can have a look at the list here: http://www.246.dk/38tricks.html - see how many you can spot the next time you're listening to a creationist (or anyone, for that matter).

I am serious. Someone really needs to mass-produce this book again, and get it on every bookshelf on the planet.