As I started listening I thought the book was a disaster because it seemed to be a rehash of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. But then it offered rather more compelling evidence that Gladwell - such as the huge proportion of top British table tennis players coming out of Reading (one small town) and interesting take on the placebo effect (including religion) in sport. The end was a disappointing treatment of genetic influences in sporting prowess (Syed is keen to deny their existence completely), but he seemed to have forgotten that in just the previous chapter he was tentatively arguing for allowing athletes (and other humans) to experiment with genetic enhancements, such as resistance to cold viruses and raising intelligence. He does not offer any convincing explanation as to why certain groups of east africans dominate endurance races, and Jamaican do the same for sprints. It is facile to say that statements such as 'generally blacks are superior at sport' are false. Of course they are. But there is something to explain when only one white man (Lemaitre) has run 100m in under 10 secs. Syed's answer is 'stereotyping'. Hmm. Still, well worth reading.
Explains so many everyday 'true' observations, and ties them into a logical structure through the concept of 'essentialism'. So many ideas about why we value certain things, how we spend our time, what motivates and incentivises humans, that this book will become part of the permanent furniture of my mind long after I've forgotten the name Paul Bloom.
This book isn't really about science, but about its misrepresentation. It is particularly topical as the NHS is currently mopping up the damage caused by the MMR scandal and scam of 2002-2005. Was it all done just to sell newspapers? Basically, yes, even though children may (this year) die as a direct result.
I got a bit tired of Ben Goldacre's polemical style, and overuse of adjectives such as exquisite and spectacular. The problem is that Mr Goldacre does not really understand rhetoric. He criticises humanities people for not understanding science (bravo) but he could do with understanding the rules of rhetoric better himself. He actually goes out of his way to alienate his scientific readers (by assuming that his reader knows less about e.g. statistics than himself, which will not always be true) as well as non-scientific readers who are bound to find him unsympathetic. Who did he want to appeal to? The first rule of rhetoric is to get your audience to identify with you, to feel that you are one of them. No one wants to identify with Mr Superior and Mr Outraged. You could blame the narrator for the constant and fatiguing tone of moral outrage, but I think he is genuinely reflecting the tone of Dr Goldacre's writing. Lighten up, laugh, you will communicate better!
So, Mrs Picky Moaner, why did you give the book five stars? It is a cracking tour of a fascinating subject, there is much thoughtful content, I was gripped throughout, and I didn't want to put anyone off audioing this illuminating tome.
An excellent book, very listenable, packed with the kinds of scientific details and statistical observations that make Harris so popular. I'm not (as yet) sure whether I agree with Harris' central thesis, there's some complex ideas in the book that request and require some detailed, analytical thinking that are not always the priority of a first hearing, but - gladly - it's short enough to allow for multiple readings without any major innconveniance.