If you thought Guy P. Harrison’s latest book, ‘Think: Why You Should Question Everything’ should have you pondering then you’d be right. Harrison’s assertion is that scepticism (he spells it the American way ‘skepticism’ but it’s the same thing) is healthy for you and it will discourage you from believing anything on trust and look for facts to back it up. He further points out that this is how scientists function and you don’t have to be a scientist to be like that, just use the same technique. Speaking as an ex-scientist, I knew several who were also very religious which tends to fly opposite to that idea. I tend to think they tended to segregate their two different types of life and never let them cross. As Harrison also points out that we are also entitled to having a healthy fantasy life and doesn’t condone our genre, as he also says he enjoys SF.
Not taking anyone by their word alone is healthy but you still have to apply some area of knowledge to be able to differentiate what makes sense or not. Without that knowledge you aren’t going to make the right assessment, are you? Considering that polls have shown a rise in creationism and such from school age, one has to question what is being taught. The rise of religion over science in the USA clearly shows that scepticism is having a recession across the pond. No doubt many of them don’t understand atomic structure simply because atoms are too small to see and they have to believe the scientists that there is anything there at all. If you are apprehensive about science already and cross-connect ‘atomic’ with ‘bombs’ rather than structure, I can see why some people shy away from science and hope a deity is watching over them.
Harrison’s assertion on how our memories work and that we never have perfect recall for most people is correct. Although I tend to see my kind of memory as just below photographic, I can recall particular events more than the mundane routine of life. I tend to think memories are re-enforced with emotional impact or else how does the Kennedy assassination still resonant with so many people world-wide after 50 years when the likes of Lincoln’s public assassination doesn’t?
The list of 27 automatic biases we each carry with us makes for interesting reading, especially with how we use fiction to join the dots. From a writer’s pov, I tend to find it easier to look for the reality first before any fictional connections these days and in good SF, you can turn an idea into plausibility a lot easier that way than be totally fictional. The result of which has made me less a believer of anything first and go by the evidence I can see with my own eyes.
When Harrison goes through the list of odd occurrences and analyses them and even points out, he used to carry belief in them himself that this book becomes required reading. It wasn’t until many years after reading about a certain Big Foot Patterson film footage in the ‘Reader’s Digest’ and the ‘professional’ analysis saying it was real that I was able to see it for myself up close. I didn’t even think it was a female and then it dawned on me that no female primate of any species has much hair on its chest and made me think that one had to be a fake. For those who are seeking out the real Big Foot in Oregon, it might pay to keep near any streams in the woods as I doubt if any giant primate would want to stray too far from a water supply.
When it comes to ESP, Harrison focuses more on how some people can cold read other people and any of the other psionic abilities. I’m not sure if that is because he dismisses them out of hand or thinks they are covered in other parts of the book. Granted with precognition, we only remember the accurate ones than the failures, which must surely out-number them, but I still have an open verdict on a lot of it. Even Harrison points out that it pays to be an open-minded sceptic than disbelieve everything out of hand.
When I was back at college in my younger years, the Bermuda Triangle mystery was all the rage and I had read up on the subject for one of the social classes. A little analysis revealed a couple things. It wasn’t a triangle and it was also highly populated with shipping lanes so it was hardly surprising that more ships were lost there than elsewhere on the oceans.
Harrison’s discussion point on eating the right food for the brain did raise a slight chuckle in me because he’s addressing the American audience who see fast food as a way of life. I doubt if many of them could or would want to walk in the same place and type at the same time. If you really want a healthy diet, know the ingredients and cook for yourself. Keeping your brain active by making it work will always keep it healthy.
There is one major problem I have, not so much with the book, but in how people acquire accurate knowledge to assess any claim. We’ve all seen with the Net, there are various camps for any issue drawing upon particular knowledge that sides with any bias. If you’re prone in any particular direction then you’re likely to go to such websites. If there are multiple websites saying the same thing, then you are likely to think the knowledge is sound, not the fact that each has probably ‘borrowed’ from each other so no one has bothered to check accuracy or even themselves. This does therefore leave the problem of how to find unbiased information, which is just as likely to mirror this, to provide you with what you need to know. It might pay to do the same thing you would do in a google or any other search engine search about a product and include “problems” or “bias” and see what alternatives come up for assessment.
I found this an interesting book but as with all books of this nature, the people who really need to read it aren’t likely to pick it up. As, I suspect, most of you people here do think a lot about what you read, then it might be in your interest to see how much you really do think and test yourself against this book. As your conscious mind is only 10% of your entire thinking ability, then I think you’ll be surprised at how much is done automatically rather than by always assessing. The nature of my writing at SFC means I’m always assessing and you read my reactions here in reviews. Assessing all the time will make you less of a passive reader and more of a deep thinker. If you can do that after reading this book, then I think Harrison would be proud.
(pub: Prometheus Books. 240 page illustrated indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $16.95 (US), $18.00 (CAN), £13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61614-807-2)
check out websites: www.prometheusbooks.com